Open house open to theft

shoesOpen houses are still fairly popular. There are sellers who believe that an open house is needed to sell a house. Open houses are not needed to sell a house or to sell it more quickly.

They are wonderful  for real estate agents who are looking for “leads”, and for uncommitted buyers without financing in place.

An open house are also a great opportunity for people to steal drugs from medicine cabinets and to find other valuables and take them.

Sometimes sellers leave tax returns and check books in the top drawer of their desk. Other times there are credit card or bank statements on the kitchen counter still in the envelope. Open houses can be a great opportunity for identity thieves.

I have seen calendars on the wall when I have toured houses that tell me more about the home owners than they would want me to know. I can tell when they will be out of town and where their children go to school and even what grade they are in.

Sure your agent says he/she is going to watch everything but that isn’t the way it works. I have walked into many an open house where the agent is talking to someone near the front door and I am allowed to roam the home alone or with my clients.

If you must have open houses please make sure your valuables are locked up or removed from the home. Depersonalize your home as much as possible before it is photographed or held open.

also read: Sellers put the calendar away

A real estate team might not be what you think it is

McDonalds sign taken in August of 2015

There are teams in sports. On a baseball team everyone has a position and each player is responsible for playing his position to help the team win.

In business we use the word “team” is used to refer to a group of people who work for the same company. We like to use sports analogies in business.

A real team works together to achieve a common goal.

In real estate the point of a team is so that team members can get “leads” and so that the team leader can make more money. The leader gets some of the agents commissions. For new agents teams can be a great way to get some hands on experience and training but to be honest that is what a broker is supposed to provide.

Sometimes the clients of real estate teams get this mental picture of several people working on selling their home or finding them a new one but it almost never works that way. One agent works on selling the house while the others work with other clients or on lead capture.

If I call a team and ask about a home for sale usually no one but the actual listing agent knows anything about the home. In fact it seems like they don’t even talk to each other. They don’t actually help each other when problems arise and they do not tap into each others expertise. Homes do not sell faster because they are listed by a real estate team.

Teams are popular among agents because they are a great way for experienced agents to make more money and a way for inexperienced agents to get some experience.

Large teams operate like a company within a company. Some team leaders end up starting their own real estate company, other teams act and operate like a separate company, within a company.

It gets complicated. In the end working with a team may not be any different than working with an individual agent. Sometimes the lead agent gets the listings and the seller gets to deal with a junior agent and an assistant.

Go team!

After you buy a house change the locks

I have sold some older homes that appear to have the original door locks. There is no way to know who might have a key to the front door. Maybe the baby sitter has one and the next door neighbor too.

Right after the closing is a great time to have the locks changed. Not only will the home be more secure but lock technology has changed. In general locks are better and easier to use than they were in the 1940’s.

Also consider smart locks wth keyless and blue tooth options. Unlock doors with your phone or with a code. If you think you forgot to lock the door you can lock it from a remote location.

Locks are complicated. Do some research before you buy.

door lock

The advantages of thinking smaller

While the average family size is decreasing the average size of a new house is increasing. Part of it has to do with the fact that builders need to make a profit and bigger profitable.  In 1973 the average size of a new home was 1525, today it is over 2500 square feet.

There are some advantages in buying a smaller house. Generally they cost less to buy than a larger house which means a smaller mortgage. There is also less to clean and maintain and less to heat and cool.

For families with children it may also mean actually seeing the children and spending time with them. Children do not need all that much space it is generally parents who need the extra space because they have children.

When deciding to buy a home think about size. Owning a 600-800 square foot home could mean more time and money for travel or having the flexibility to take a lower paying job or being able to afford a stay at home parent or caregiver.

We have houses in St. Paul that have between 600 and 800 square feet of finished space and cost less than 100K. I have seen a few for as little as 50K but those generally require some work before they can be lived in.

blue house
small house


Multiple offer fatigue


Some home buyers and sellers are getting tired of multiple offers. In theory multiple offers are nice but it isn’t that simple. Only one person can buy the house. Multiple offers are a good problem for sellers to have but can multiply the stress for all parties.

Home owners will put their home on the market on a Tuesday and say they want “highest and best offers” by noon on Friday. Sometimes that back fires and they end up with no offers, because buyers don’t always want to play that game. Sellers have told me that they don’t want to play games either. They just want a great offer.

When an offer comes in with the asking price or better and all of the terms the seller wants there really isn’t any reason to hang on to it and try to get more offers. Here are a few of the things that can go wrong when a good offer is used to get a better offer:

  1. First buyer withdraws offer and buys another house.
  2. Winning offer is for an amount that the buyer regrets and as a result he/she/they either back out or after the inspection they ask for numerous repairs or a sizable price reduction.
  3. Buyers lender has the home appraised and it comes in at a value less than the buyer offered. Buyer backs out.

The most likely outcome of in any of the above scenarios is having to put the home back on the market and starting all over. I am not trying to suggest that getting multiple offers is always bad because it isn’t but sometimes that first offer really is the best and all that is needed. It is after all a seller’s market.

Also see seller expectations sky rocket.


There isn’t enough storage space

I see the inside of maybe 300 homes a year. Many if not most homes do not have enough storage space. The more storage space a home has the more stuff there is in storage.

Sometimes when people put their homes on the market they can make it feel a little more spacious by removing items and putting them in a rented storage unit. Sometimes they end up keeping the storage unit after they move and end up filling up all of the storage space in their new home.

Most of us are storing stuff that we will be moved more often than it is used.

One of the best ways to have a home with enough storage space is to cut back on the number of items being stored.  Having less stuff can make it easier to live in a smaller house and that can lead to smaller mortgage payments and can possibly be owned free and clear one day.

storage lockers
self storage

I have read about how younger people are buying smaller houses. I am not finding that to be true with my clients. I am finding that my older clients are buying smaller houses, and getting rid of excess stuff.