Almost too late to plant bulbs


It is almost too late to plant bulbs, but not quite. Many years ago I bought some tulip bulbs, crocus bulbs and daffodils bulbs and planted them along the South side of my house.

They bloom every year without fail. Bulbs are easy to plant. They just need a hole and I like to dump some bone meal in first.

Bulbs should be planted by mid October which is why they are inexpensive to buy right now.

Tulips are the most tolerant of being planted late. If you can’t get them in by the end of the week, wait until next fall. If you plan ahead you can save money by buying bulbs in October.

Start the fall to do list for a warm winter

If you are a home owner and live in Minnesota now would be a great time to have your boiler or furnace service, inspected and or tuned up.  There is still plenty of time to get it fixed or replaced before it gets cold and it will get cold.

Usually there are specials this time of year too for those who get it done before it gets cold and the repair guys get busy.

I hate to sound like your father but it is a good ideas especially here in Minnesota where it gets so cold to schedule a furnace tune-up every fall. It generally costs less to get work done in late summer or early fall than it does during the heating season.

I see a lot of houses with old furnaces that have been well maintained. They really do last longer with regular maintenance. Personally I am not a fan of the service plans but I am a fan of service.

If you are selling your home this fall or winter it is a good idea to have the furnace or boiler serviced and save the receipt or even tape it to the furnace. Buyers who are closing on homes this fall should either have the furnaced tuned up or should make sure that the seller has already taken care of it.

snow and cold will come


Take advantage of back to school sales

silver maple
Maple leaves

School starts in a couple of weeks. There are a lot of sales and it is a great time to buy office supplies, computers, small electronics, bedding and other household items.

Last year I took advantage of the “college” section in one store and scored a pretty nice toaster and a new crockpot. Both were on sale. August seems to be the best time for sales on items that might be used in a dorm room.

Next month I’ll be buying a new computer for my business. I have an excellent desktop computer and a tablet but miss having a laptop computer.

September is the month for buying office supplies. My business is fairly paperless but I do use some office supplies and this is the time of year that I stock up for the whole year. I’ll buy paper, pens, notebooks, folders and art supplies.

My own offspring are beyond school age . . which means I have more money that I can use to buy school supplies to be donated to children who need them.

Sewers and septic systems

To some people the job of a real estate broker may look glamorous and it does look that way on those T.V. shows with the real estate sharks, and home flippers and hunters.

Some days the job is mostly about waste, sewers and septic systems. The Saint Paul sewer system is interesting with all of it’s tunnels. In the oldest parts of the city there is a sandrock tunnel system.

Having the sewer line scoped before buying a home is a good idea. Sometimes sewer lines are broken and sometimes they need to be replaces which is expensive. It usually costs less the $200 dollars to get some pictures of the inside of a sewer line.

The most common problem reason for a blocked sewer line is that is is filled with tree roots and that is a fairly easy and inexpensive problem to fix.

The city has a program that allows home owners to borrow money for sewer repairs. Go to and search “sewer”. I can not put a link on this site because the city moves pages on a regular basis and I am left with broken links. The city has some useful advice about sewer line maintenance and who to hire to replace the line.

For your enjoyment here is a diagram of the sewer system in my neighborhood.  Home owners are responsible for the sewer line from their house to the street.



As for septic systems they add a whole new level of complexity to buying and selling real estate. They need to be tested and they are expensive to replace. They are regulated by the city, county and state. Septic systems are not very common in St. Paul. They are the most common at the edge of the city and often there is sewer and water in the street but the house is not hooked up to it.

Bee food and butterfly habitat

Please leave the milkweed that may be growing in your yard alone. To some it is a weed but to bees it is a much needed food source and it is the where the monarch butterflies lay their eggs. The plant provides food for the caterpillars that will eventually become butterflies.

honey bee and milkweed

We often replace native plants with the few varieties we find in nurseries. We need to grow more native plants for pollinators.


Small repairs can cost big bucks

Yea very old gravity furnace - should it stay or should it go?

Sometimes the repairs don’t cost all that much but home sellers end up getting a lot less for their home because a repair is needed. A buyer may ask for $5000 off of the sale price for a $200 dollar repair. A new furnace isn’t a small repair it is a big one but again a buyer may want to subtract twice the amount that a new furnace will cost from the asking price. A Minnesota home has to have a working furnace.  The gravity furnace in the picture happens to work just fine but it scared a few buyers away.

Sometimes home owners believe that their asking price is in line with the condition of the house and that may be true but buyers will still think in terms of paying less than the asking price because repairs are needed. It ends up being a kind of vicious circle and in my job I see all the drama it causes.

If you plan on putting your home on the market don’t spend any more money on it than you have to. It usually isn’t necessary to remodel anything or buy all new appliances but if the place needs a new water heater, furnace or a roof it might be cheaper to do the work rather than trying to sell “as-is”. A house has to have a roof and even though they can get expensive they are not considered a luxury.

Banks will sometimes require that repairs be made before they will lend the money and of course sellers can say no and sell the home to someone else who will need to borrow money and who will also run into some difficulties.

Investors will buy homes that need a lot of work but they need to pay below market value in order to pay for the work that is needed and turn a profit when they resell.

My advice is to make repairs before the home goes on the market.