• Home Improvement
  • Make your furnace or boiler appointment today

    Gravity Furnace
    Gravity Furnace

    I decided that today is make an appointment to have your central heating checked. We are about a month away from the official start of heating season and here in the frozen northland we depend upon our furnaces and boilers.

    It usually doesn’t cost much and even if it does it is still a lot less expensive than getting emergency repairs in the middle of the night on Christmas eve.

    The furnace in the photo is a very old gravity furnace. They don’t have moving parts and tend to last a long time. I get inside of a lot of homes and I see just about every type of furnace, heater and boiler made in the last 100 years.

  • Home Improvement
  • Houses get used up


    It seems like I spend a lot of time talking about roofs. A house has to have a roof but they do not last forever. Home owners seem to get down right resentful at the idea of putting roof on a house and then selling it. At the same time not all home buyers have the resources to buy a house and then pay to re-roof it. Sure they can pay less for the house but that doesn’t mean they will end up with an extra 10K or so for a roof. It just means the seller gets less money and the buyers house payment is $5 less a month and the house still needs a roof.

    There are other things in a home that wear out or get used up. I have first hand experience replacing porch decks, furnaces, water heaters, out door spigots and much more. The trick is to plan ahead and budget for major repairs and yes if you need to sell you may have to put on a new roof before you leave.

    Buyers should also be aware that there are loan programs both FHA and conventional that will allow the buyer to borrow extra money for repairs as long as the fix up funds and home loan come out to 95 to 110% of the value of the home once repairs are done. I’ll never recommend borrowing 110% of the value of the home but there are loan programs that allow it.



  • Home Improvement
  • Cats are indoor pets

    House cat – in the house

    Cats roam free in my neighborhood and they make little cats too. There are people who believe that it is alright to let their cat roam free and that cats are outdoor pets.

    The house cat has long been listed among the 100 most dangerous invasive species. They kill millions of birds and other small animals each year to the point of extinction. A cat is a pet when kept inside but once when outside it is a heartless killer.

    “If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds. Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy [wildlife management institute]

    There was a study that shows that they only bring home about 25% of what they kill. They eat some of what they kill but they leave a lot of it where they killed it.

    Being a free range cat in St. Paul is not good for the cat either. Here are some statistics for St. Paul:

    200 cats are killed annually in traffic

    Life expectancy of a cat allowed to roam is only three to four years

    Confined cats can live beyond 14 years

    Over 1,200 cats are picked up each year by animal control

    Roaming cats may be a nuisance by urinating and defecating in sandboxes and gardens

    Outdoor cats are susceptible to injury or death from other predatory animals

    Outdoor cats are predators to wildlife such as birds

  • For Home Sellers
  • Garden with care

    IMG_9509 (2)


    When we first moved into our house there wasn’t much growing on the lot and I was all excited about getting to plant a garden and about doing some landscaping. I made some major landscaping mistakes that I am still recovering from many years later. My first mistake was planting more than I can take care of.

    There are plants that I wish I had never planted and I am sure my immediate neighbors feel the same way. Knowing what I know today I would never have planted mint, chives, or morning glories. Especially not the chives. They grow everywhere and are just about impossible to kill.

    I never would have mixed hostas and ferns because they fight with each other for territory every year. I am happy that I planted the rhubarb, my three plants produce for me faithfully every year with enough left over to give to my neighbors.

    As a real estate agent and broker spring is my busiest time of year and it is also the time for preparing yard and gardens.

    Here in St. Paul there are still some small garden centers where we can go to get advice. The University of Minnesota Extension has some resources too. [Master Gardener]

    From a resale point of view landscaping matters, but that is the subject for another post.

  • For Home Sellers
  • Getting Mom’s house ready to sell

    green carpet
    Green sculpted carpet

    Over the years I have sold three homes for my family.  One of the challenges of selling a home that is or was owned and lived in by an elderly person is making it look as appealing as possible to younger home buyers. Sometimes the homes look as if time stood still.

    The first hurdle can be getting the owners to give up some decorating choices they made long ago. My mom doesn’t know that I had the wallpaper boarder removed from the kitchen repainted or she would be upset about it.  Often “grandmas” house is in good repair and is an excellent opportunity for first time home buyers to fix some of the cosmetics and build equity.

    As a seller I don’t want to put any more money into the home than I have to. Here are some of the things I did that were fairly inexpensive that helped sell grandma’s house:

    1. Clean everything

    2. Repainting in light neutral colors.

    3. Replacing old drapes with sheers in shades of white.

    4.  Replacing any window shade or blind that was anything other than white or just remove them.

    5. Buy new shower curtains, towels and coordinating rugs for the bathrooms.

    6. Replace light fixtures and shades.

    7. Remove wall paper and paint walls.

    8. Remove worn carpeting to expose hardwood floors. It is better to have wood floors that need a little work than worn carpeting.

    9. Remove worn linoleum and replace.

    The list isn’t really prioritized by importance but it is  in order of how much the project is likely to cost. It is important to have budget and to stick with it. If the improvement won’t help sell the home faster or for more money it isn’t worth doing. it is the smallest improvements that give the greatest payback. Cleaning and painting have the highest ROI. Removing a wall paper boarder can have a tremendous impact.

    It is also a good idea to have furnace or boiler serviced and have any repairs done that are needed. As a rule anything that leaks should be fixed and there are usually other obvious repairs too.  Sometimes small maintenance issues result in low offers.