2018 seems so long ago now

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. I was thinking about 2018 and what I think was the biggest story of the year in St. Paul. It all seems so long ago but it was just last June when St. Paul made the national and international news, because a raccoon climbed a 25 story office building downtown. #MPRraccoon  It took the critter hours and hours. The tired rodent took a nap on the roof of the building before being captured and removed.

If there is a life lesson it is about how hard the little raccoon worked to climb the building and how all of that work was wasted when she was captured and brought back down to the ground by a man. Apparently she just wanted some pigeon eggs for breakfast and she knew where she could find some.

The news media did an excellent job of covering the event but I thought I would use my crazy photojournalistic skills to fill in some of what the media did not cover. After all, it is Friday. (Scroll over the photos or click on them to see captions)


Remember when new construction was a thing?

If you go way back to the time before the housing market crash, like before 2007 you could find new construction homes for sale. I know I sold a few back in the day.

There are currently 33 new construction type properties for sale in Ramsey County and 5 in St. Paul. Average new construction prices are in the $400K range with 2500 square feet of finished living space.

Builders say they can’t make a profit on small affordable houses.  No, it isn’t your imagination. Housing is getting more and more expensive and there are more people living on the streets and in tent camps too.

The average rent in St. Paul is close to $1200 a month. Rents are lower outside of the city and in the nearby suburbs.

Wages have not kept up with housing costs.

Back porch and side entrance

Minimalists have more space

I see the inside of 300 or more homes a year. Many if not most homes do not have enough storage space. It seems like homes with more storage space have more stuff in them that is being stored.

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. There are advantages in having less stuff. Having less makes moving easier and it can mean a smaller house.

Having a smaller house can mean lower monthly expenses and more money for travel or whatever else a person might want to spend money on. It has been my observation that people who have less stuff have more space.

Before starting the home buying process it might be a good idea to make some decisions about how much stuff you want to have and where it might fit in a home.

1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).


storage lockers

If you are looking for a small house we have them in St. Paul and I would be happy to help you find one.

ask about snakes before you buy

I have lived in the West 7th neighborhood for most of my life. The block we live on is on the river bluff and the limestone is just beneath the soil. Garter snakes love it because the soil is warmer. It isn’t at all unusual to see a few garter snakes sunning themselves on the basement window sills.

Occasionally a snake gets in the house. They can’t climb but they can fall in. They are not poisonous, they don’t have teeth and they usually slither away when someone comes near. They ear frogs, small mammals, earthworms and insects.

Fear of snakes is common and people who are afraid of snakes are afraid of garter snakes too and some people have ophiophobia, which is an irrational fear of snakes. I can’t recommend the part of the West 7th neighborhood that is along the river bluff to people who suffer from ophiophobia.

There have been people who bought houses in the neighborhood but could not live in them. In one case the buyer bought the home during the winter and didn’t see a snake until several months later.

It is a good idea to make a note on the seller’s disclosure about the garter snakes and encourage prospective buyers to read up on local garter snakes before making a commitment. The snakes can be found anywhere in Minnesota and throughout St. Paul.

It is January and you want to be a real estate agent

winter in St. Paul
Harriet Island Regional Park

So far this year I have only been contacted by a few people who are interested in getting a real estate license. Probably because there are plenty of jobs out there.

Anyone can buy a house or any kind of real estate for themselves or sell real estate they own. No license is required.

Judging by how often I get asked “who do you work for?” most people are blissfully unaware of the fact that most real estate agents are self-employed 1099 contractors, not W2 type employees with health insurance. Who do I work for? I work for my clients.

Even fewer people understand that all Minnesota licensed real estate agents must work under a Minnesota licensed broker. Real estate companies with agents must have a licensed broker. I just hate it when I have to kill someone’s dream of striking out on their own as a real estate agent.

The broker is responsible for every real estate transaction the agent has. I am the broker for Boardman Realty which is a small local client centered real estate company. Most of the larger real estate companies in the area are national franchises.

Real estate agents only get paid after a successful closing and can only be paid by their broker. Agents work for free until there is a closing and if there is no closing there is no pay.

The broker is the person who collects the commission. Brokers get paid through “commission splits”. That means we keep some of the commission.

Starting out in real estate can be tough. The challenge is to find someone who will let you sell their house or will let you help them buy a house. There are more real estate agents in the metro than there are home sales.

The turn over rate among agents is pretty high during the first year. Typically agents quit because they can’t pay their bills and pay for all of the expenses that go along with being a real estate agent. People fail to treat being a real estate agent as a business.

New agents generally charge as much as experienced agents charge but study after study shows that experienced agents make more money.

“To become licensed as a real estate salesperson in Minnesota, you must first qualify by fulfilling several requirements. You must be at least 18 years old, and you must successfully complete three 30-hour education courses (known as Course I, Course II, and Course III), pass the salesperson’s examination, become associated with a licensed real estate broker (who must submit the application for your license), and receive notice that the application for your license has been approved by the Commerce Department.

To remain licensed in good standing, you must fulfill additional requirements. You must maintain the association with a licensed broker, complete required continuing education courses by the specified deadlines, and comply with all laws governing your conduct as a licensee.”

For a handy guide visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce

The qualifications for a broker’s license if outlined in the same document. One of the qualifications is having had a real estate license for three years. There are exceptions but I would go to the link above and get the information from the source rather than taking the word of some real estate blogger.

The only way to become a REALTOR is to become a member of the National Association of Realtors. REALTOR isn’t an occupation or job title. I estimate that there are currently about 21,000 members in Minnesota which is down from the peak in 2006 of over 25,000.

How does the shut down affect us?

I would like to see the Federal Government re-open. I don’t understand why it is closed. I thought in a democracy there would be more checks and balances and that there were protections against tyranny. I was wrong.

Here is an infographic made by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) that shows the effects of the shutdown on real estate sales.

Infor graphic