It takes longer to sell your downtown condo

Median days on market
Median days on market

Homes are still selling quickly in St. paul and we really are in a sellers market. It has always taken longer to sell a downtown condo than to sell a single family home outside of downtown. Condos in general take longer to sell because there is less demand for them. Median days on the market for a downtown condo is about 65 days where as the median days on market for a house in St. Paul is 35 days.

I like to look at these numbers over a period of a few years to put them in context. It wasn’t just my imagination that condos were tough to sell in 2011 and 2012.

Who really pays in an association?

Kelllogg Plaza – downtown St. Paul

Often it seems like condo buyers don’t understand the math behind assoication dues. It is important to add up everything that they cover before deciding they are too high. Assoication dues often cover insurance. I’ll be paying my insurance this week and if I divide it out it comes to more than $100 a month.

In some buildings the association dues pay for heating and cooling. The last time I was on a budget helper type plan for heating and cooling it came out to around $200 a month.

The money that goes into the association usually comes from everyone’s monthly dues. That means that a condo owner is paying for a new roof just like a single family home owner has to pay for their own roof.  Some assoication are able to set aside money each month for repairs and emergencies and even for large improvement projects. Others will need to collect money from owners to cover improvements or deferred maintenance that becomes an emergency.

Even if the association covers exterior maintenance it isn’t free. It is about several  pooling their money and sharing costs and expenses. Sometimes owners agree to share cleaning, maintenance, snow shoveling or lawn care so that they can keep monthly dues low. Sometimes buyers are attracted to units with low monthly dues only to find out that they will need to take a turn shoveling the snow or cleaning the laundry room.

Usually when I do the math and figure out how much services, insurance, trash removal, water and heat would cost a single homeowner the condo owner comes out ahead with lower monthly expenses.

It is also important to remember that the association isn’t a “they” or a “them” it is you. you are the association.

HOA documents

What is “Pullman style”?

They were built in the early 1900’s as apartments and today some are apartments and others have been turned into condos.  They can be found mainly in mainly in the Crocus Hill and Summit University areas, which are older neighborhoods closer to downtown.  There are several wonderful examples along Grand Avenue.  The buildings look square from the front with balconies and can be made of brick or wood.

42 St. Albans

The Pullman style is named after the style of sleeping car trains designed by the Pullman company in the early 1900’s.  The space is long and narrow.

The Pullman style units in St. Paul usually open up into a long hallway, and most of the rooms are on one side.  The first room is the living room with big windows and then a formal dinning room. In some building the balcony is assessable through one of the living room windows. The bathrooms and bedrooms are along a long hall that starts by the front door and goes to the kitchen which is in the back of the unit and takes up the entire width. There is usually a backdoor off the kitchen.

They range in size from small to large 😉 . . They will set you back at least 180K . If you own a condo and would like to sell, let me know. They are selling and I have buyers who are looking.

Parking meter app

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Screen shot

There was a time not all that long ago when I considered parking tickets a normal cost of doing business but that was back when we had parking meters that only accepted quarters. I haven’t gotten a ticket since the city of Saint Paul upgraded from old school meters  to the machines that accept coin or credit card.

Now paying for parking is even easier with a mobile phone app called Parking Passport. I downloaded the app and have been using it a few times a week ever since. Yesterday I was able to extend my parking meter using the app before my meter expired without having to walk back to my car.

The app has a timer that starts up after payment is received so that I always know how much time I have left.

Parking passport is super easy to use. It asks for a zone which in St. Paul is 651 and then the parking space number, and the length of your stay.  Money can either be pre-paid and stored in a wallet in the app or a credit card number can be stored, or a single payment can be made using a credit card.

The app stores my parking history which ought to come in handy at tax time. There is also the option of receipts via email. There is a .15 convenience fee.

I watch people struggle with the parking meters, they are not intuitive. The app makes it all much easier and it’s free too.

Downtown condo sales

robert street
Robert street at Kellogg

If you live in these parts “downtown” almost always means downtown Minneapolis . . yet when I say downtown I mean downtown St. Paul. Condo sales downtown have been gathering strength. It seems like just a few short years ago they were hard to sell. These days they are flying off the shelves . . . kind of.  There are more than twice as many people living downtown today as there were in 2005.

Number of condos sold

How Many Realtors are there in Minnesota

As of the end of the 3rd quarter of 2015 there were 18,067 Realtors in Minnesota. During the peak of the home sales boom in 2006 there were more than 25,000. We reached a low in 2012 of 16,071 in 2012 and the numbers have been going up every year since then. In 2011 we hit bottom in both home values and home sales in Minnesota, which explains why there were fewer of us in 2012 which for me was a wonderful year.

I don’t know how many people in Minnesota have real estate licenses. Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors. Here in the Twin Cities the majority of real estate licensees who sell residential real estate are Realtors. Realtors own the local MLS. Most if not all of the large real estate companies require that their agents join the National Association.

Number of Minnesota Realtors

The data used to create this chart came from the National Association of Realtors membership data. Getting a real estate license in Minnesota is fairly easy to do. Becoming a member of NAR is just a matter of having a license and paying the dues.

As far as I know there has never been a shortage of real estate agents in Minnesota or anyplace else in the US. I get a lot of calls and emails from people this time of year who kind of want to try it out. The biggest challenge to real estate agents isn’t selling houses it is finding clients. The competition is fierce.

Here is an article I wrote about how to get a real estate license in Minnesota.