Everything in an old house can be made new

Gravity Furnace – isn’t she a beauty?

Just about everything on the inside or the outside of a house can be rebuilt or replaced. An old house can have a new roof and new windows too.

There are old houses and there are old houses. Sometimes home buyers are intimidated by the house that was built in the 1890’s when it is the house that was built in the 1980’s, or 1990’s.  that they should be concerned about.

Houses built in the late 1990’s may still have the original roof. Replacing a roof is expensive and some only last 20 years. A 20-year-old forced air furnace is a scary thing. Plumbing doesn’t wear out as quickly but I know from experience that plumbing for toilets and faucets and valves wear out and they can be expensive to replace.

Our home was renovated in the late 80’s and we have replaced almost every faucet and valve in the house and upgraded toilets and replaced a few sinks. The plumbing, in general, is in much better shape than what I find in houses that are almost a 100 years newer. The fixtures and plumbing in the kitchen are just a couple of months old.

Our furnace is now three years old and the water heater is about six years old.

I strongly encourage home buyers to have a complete home inspection before buying a home of any age. While house hunting pay close attention to the age of the systems inside and outside the house rather than the age of the whole house.

If a home as been newly renovated ask for warranties on the work, make sure permits were pulled and that they have been closed.  Local government entities that rehab and sell houses will sometimes refuse to provide any kind of warranty on the work making a complete home inspection even more important.

Most of the housing in St. Paul is old. There isn’t a lot of new construction and it is very expensive. Houses are definitely reusable and upgradable. The oldest houses in St. Paul were built without plumbing or electricity. That was all added later.

Also, see Younger buyers want technology  Homes can be retrofitted with smart home technology.

searching for a decent neighborhood

On the river bluff – Cherokee Heights neighborhood

Home buyers are out in full force looking for that perfect home in a “decent” neighborhood. I St. Paul we have seventeen neighborhoods to choose from. Within those 17 neighborhoods, there are more than 100 sub-neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a district council. One way to learn about the neighborhoods is to visit the district council website for the neighborhood.

If a decent neighborhood is an area with a low crime rate the best place to learn about crime in St. Paul is from the Saint Paul Police Department’s website.

The idea of a decency in a neighborhood is vague and subjective, yet most home buyers are looking for a “decent” neighborhood. In addition, to “decent”, the neighborhood needs to be “safe”.

This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act.

As a real estate agent and broker, I can not recommend a neighborhood or even state that a neighborhood is decent or safe. I can not steer anyone into a particular neighborhood because that violates fair housing laws. Fair housing discrimination does not need to be intentional to be illegal. To learn more about fair housing rules and laws in Minnesota, visit the Fair housing basics web site.

For most people, it is the amount of money they have that will determine where they live. The most expensive homes are near the best schools. Great schools drive property values up. Higher property values mean property higher taxes which in turn means more money is spent on education.

There are private schools in St. Paul and public magnet schools. Parents have choices. To learn more about St. Paul Public Schools.

When choosing a neighborhood write a list of what is important and do some research. Drive through the neighborhood or walk through it when the weather is nice and people are outside again.

Make a great offer

My mother’s Antique Teapot

These days multiple offers on houses that are for sale are fairly common. When choosing an offer it isn’t just about the amount of money being offered. Here are a few things that matter to sellers when they evaluate offers:

  1. The total dollar amount of offer.
  2. Down payment percentage. The greater the down payment the better but that doesn’t mean buyers need a huge down payment to buy a house. It just means that if all things are equal an offer with a 10% down payment is better than an offer with a 5% down payment.
  3. Closing date. Usually, closing dates can be negotiated but buyers should ask their agent to find out what the sellers have in mind for a closing date.
  4. Length of the inspection period. A shorter inspection period is better than a longer one.
  5. Earnest money matters, it shows that the buyer has money and it also shows the strength of the buyer’s commitment to buy the home.
  6. An offer written by a real estate agent with a good reputation. An agent’s reputation is based on how she works with her clients and with other agents. The agent with the most sales isn’t necessarily the agent with the best reputation.
  7. Offers that are not contingent upon the sale of another property are better than contingent offers.
  8. Asking the seller to pay the buyers closing costs weakens the offer.

These days speed is important. When the right house comes on the market buyers need to drop what they are doing, see the property and make an offer. Unfortunately, those who wait for the weekend or for an open house end up missing out.

Pro buyer tip: If you are at an open house and you think you want to make an offer on the house act as disinterested as possible around other open house attendees and be very careful about what you say in front of the real estate agent who is hosting the open house because he/she is representing the seller and anything you say can be held against you and it can weaken your negotiating power.

It is also important to have that pre-approval letter from a lender ready before looking at houses. If there are multiple offers the seller isn’t going to wait for a pre-approval letter and an offer isn’t any good without one.

Happy house hunting and may the odds be forever in your favor.

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Cameras are everywhere

I was touring a home with some buyers when I noticed a camera on one of the bookshelves. The camera was plugged in but I am familiar with the particular model and I don’t think anyone was watching us or recording because the little green light wasn’t blinking.

These cameras are popular as baby monitors and can be set up as motion detectors that will send an email to the owners who can activate an app on their tablet or smartphone or use a computer to get the same view the camera is getting.

In other words, a homeowner could be away and watching people inside their home. The cameras can see and hear, zoom in or out and pan the room.

I originally posted this in early 2014. I have found cameras in homes several times since then. Sometimes it is best for buyers to wait until they are outside the house to talk about it.

There isn’t any rule that I know of that says a homeowner can not have a camera recording in their home.  It isn’t easy letting strangers in and for some a camera makes them feel more secure.



Yes you can say no to dual agency

Marcie – Reading all about agency in real estate

This is a kind of public service message I write at the beginning of every year when the home buyers come out of hibernation and get serious about looking at some real estate.

Here are some basics:  If you list your house with a real estate agent and that agent brings in an offer from a buyer that she is representing you now have dual agency which means that agent cannot represent the buyer or the seller but instead becomes a facilitator. The agent facilitates the sale and can not do anything to the advantage of one party and the detriment of another. No matter what the seller or the buyer have signed with that agent previously they are not in a dual agency situation until both parties agree to dual agency by checking the box on line 229 on page 6 of the purchase agreement and signing lines 234 and 244.

What most home sellers and buyers do not understand is the way the word broker is used in the disclosure. If an agent from real estate company A lists a home and another agent from real estate company A brings in the buyer there is dual agency because they have the same broker.  All agents work under a broker and most people have no idea what a broker does or who that person is.

There are a couple of large real estate companies in the area that has one broker for a few thousand agents. When they list your home they will tell you all about the networking and how they will market your home to other agents. What they don’t tell you is that if one of those agents brings in a buyer those agents go from being able to advocate for their clients to being facilitators.

The rules are broken often as agents from two offices of the same real estate company under the same broker both advocate for their clients.

Home buyers need to be aware when they go into an open house or new construction the nice agent who is showing them around is representing the seller and anything they say can be to their detriment later on. Buyers should choose an agent to work with who will work for them as an advocate and not just a facilitator.

I am just writing about Minnesota. Real estate is locally regulated and the law may be different in your state.

Related articles about dual agency Agency and dual agencyAgency in real estateAgency and the open houseAgency? What is agency?What consumers should know about agency

don’t skip the inspection

The shortage of homes for sale continues to shrink. We have set many records for all-time lows. It isn’t just St. Paul it is the metro area and much of the country.

Home buyers need to be ready to pounce when that perfect or almost perfect home comes on the market. As I mentioned yesterday being pre-approved for a mortgage is important and so is having some money for a down payment and for closing costs.

Sure you can ask the seller to pay your closing costs but that makes your offer weaker than the buyer who can pay his own.

There is one thing home buyers should never compromise on and that is having a complete home inspection. Houses are a big financial investment and buyers need to understand what they are buying.

Buyers inspections are good for home sellers too. It is always best if the buyer finds out about any problems with a home before they buy.

Is it worth skipping the home inspection to make the offer stronger? Personally, I don’t think so. Please have a complete home inspection. Have it done by a qualified professional home inspector and make your offer contingent on that inspection. Please have a radon inspection too.