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  • Know where the snakes are

    Snake

    Some people are terrified of snakes, even the harmless garter snakes that live in St. Paul.

    The garter snake is common in Minnesota in both rural and urban areas.  They don’t have teeth, and don’t attack people, they eat insects and slither away when people come close.

    Garter snakes live in my garden, in the rhubarb.  They like heat and need it to aid the digestion of food.  On a warm fall day it is not unusual to see them sunning them selves along the foundation of my home or on the walk ways.  On occasion I have seen them come out of hibernation during the winter to catch a few rays.

    Every couple of years a snake gets inside the house.  We get them out before the cat figures it out.  They do not live in the house and since they can not climb in they usually get in through an open window in the basement.  They prefer to live in the ground and are fond of compost heaps and wood piles and are plentiful along the river bluff in St. Paul in the residential areas.  The soil on the bluff is warmer because of all the lime stone close to the surface.

    Home shoppers should let their REALTORS know if they are afraid of snakes.  Sellers are not required to disclose the presence of snakes outside the house.  They are not required to disclose the existence of bees, bats or any other kind of wild life found out doors in most urban areas.  For some home buyers their ability to enjoy their property is greatly diminished by the presence of these creatures.  Read about ophidiphobia, fear of snakes.

    Learn more about garter snakes from the University of Minnesota extension service web site.

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  • What is district energy?

    connectionsI thought this would be a good time to write about district energy. It has been awhile and I actually had some trouble this week convincing a lender that there is such a thing.

    Most of downtown Saint Paul receives heat and cooling from District Energy on Kellogg Blvd. That is where the plume of steam that you see coming from downtown originates. Buildings are connected to the plant by pipes that carry water to heat exchangers in the buildings.  In the condo buildings the bills are divided up by square footage and split among the residents.

    The hot water district heating system is twice as efficient as the previous steam heating system in downtown Saint Paul; we now heat twice the square footage of building space with the same amount of fuel. The buildings don’t need boilers.

    Heat is generated by hot water and cooling by cold water that is chilled during the night when electric energy costs are the lowest. The plant uses electricity and generates electricity that is sent back to Excel energy. They burn wood waste (biomass) too and sometimes I can smell it.

    Learn more by looking at the District energy web site and remember boys and girls that just because you have not heard of something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. 🙂

     

  • For Home buyers
  • Energy costs matter

    coinIt wasn’t long ago that most anyone could call Xcel energy and ask about average gas and electric costs for any home. Excel will now only give that information to homeowners. Buyers want to know how much it costs to heat a home during a Minnesota winter. Unfortunately the average costs don’t give us too much information unless we know what the thermostat was set at most of the time.

    Sometimes people shopping for a home think that a home costs more to heat than it actually does and that can cost the homeseller. Home Buyers often decide that homes with older windows cost a lot to heat. It is true that older windows can make a home less energy efficient but they usually don’t cause as much heat loss as poorly insulated attics or crawl spaces that the potential buyer can’t even see.

    Insulation is inexpensive and can often be installed by the homeowner and is often the one thing that will do the most to cut energy costs. A little caulk in the right places can also help reduce heating costs and it is also inexpensive and doesn’t require professional installation.  Heck it might even make sense to buy the house and add insulation. Xcel Energy offers some other helpful tips.

    Homebuyers should ask for average utility costs but should also keep in mind that people use houses differently and costs will go up if more people live in the house or if thermostat is set higher.

    The other challenge home buyers face is understanding what average heating costs are.

    Our home energy costs are slightly higher than average because of my home office. That means that the house is heated and lit more hours of the day than our neighbors who work in offices or buildings away from home.

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  • Bad windows

    windowsI have had home buyers have an inspection and ask to have all the windows replaced or ask for a significant amount off the asking price of one of my listings because they didn’t like the windows.

    Most of the homes I sell are old and have old windows. Most of the windows on my own house are 100 years old or more. I know the difference between a good window and a bad one but as a homeowner and a real estate agent it isn’t always clear to me when they have to be replaced.

    Sometimes new storm windows are all that is needed and sometimes windows can be repaired at a fraction of the cost of having new windows installed. Other times it is a matter of caulking and making other repairs.

    Installing new windows in an old house rarely pay for themselves in resale value and may pay for themselves in energy savings in a few decades.

    Homeowners who have replaced windows should not expect to see an increase in the resale value of their house. Home buyers who don’t like the windows in a particular home may be better off buying a home with windows that they do like.

    I have had home buyers make offers on my listings and ask to have all of the windows replaced. I can’t imagine any home owner agreeing to that unless the buyer wants to pay for the windows.