Enjoy Faux Spring Weekend

It is nice to have some warmer weather. The air smells and feels like Spring but it is a fake spring that will soon pass. There will be a first, second and third spring before winter loses its icy grip.

I took this picture last year on March 10th

March 10, 2019, snowstorm

This picture was taken on April 15th 2018 after a two-day snowstorm.

April 15, 2018

I also have pictures of wildflowers blooming in the woods in the middle of April. I guess it could go either way.

Luxury Vs. My Reality


It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. This week I accidentally attended an event about the luxury condo market.

The title was misleading, I thought it would be about the condo market. I did learn many things.

All about huge condos, in tall buildings with spectacular views that are guaranteed to be obstruction free forever.

I didn’t know that the power grid in the area would have to be upgraded to accommodate luxury housing with all of its amenities.

They don’t use terms like “affordable”, “sustainable” or “green” or the phrase “carbon footprint” when discussing super-expensive housing. There isn’t any discussion of the environmental impact of building close to the river either.

They use the phrase “elevated lifestyle”, that is a lifestyle for people who spend a lot of money. It is a completely different world from the one where people live in tents by the freeway and don’t get at all excited when the DOW rises.

I also learned that being wealthy isn’t always easy. There are people who need five-star hotels and apparently, we don’t have any of those in the metro area.

It was a learning experience and I am sure all that I learned will come in handy someday and it is best if I stop writing about it.

Why can’t we think outside the big house box?

tiny house

There is a housing affordability crisis in the Twin Cities and all over the country. I think that tiny houses and micro-apartments might be a solution.

There isn’t really an agreed-upon definition for a tiny house.  I think of homes that are less than 500 square feet and have found many that are less than 300 or even 200 square feet of finished living space. When they get down to 100 square feet they seem too small to call home.

These dwellings are much less expensive than a more standard size house. The idea is to spend less on housing and have fewer belongings and more time to spend doing something besides working for money and accumulating stuff that requires space.

Smaller houses also cost less to heat and cool and to insure. They require less maintenance and less furniture.

On average people who own tiny houses have money in the bank and many of them have no mortgage.

Today isn’t at all unusual for first time home buyers to be looking for at least 2000 square feet and the averages for new construction, at least in the burbs is closer to 2400 square feet. They don’t have enough stuff to fill it up so they start acquiring and accumulating.

Some studies have suggested that families who live in tighter quarters get along better because they spend more time together. Yet the most common reason for wanting a bigger house is to have room for children.

Many of the tiny houses are mobile and can be moved to a lot. Of course in the city, you mostly can’t do that but in some parts of the country the demand for tiny houses is changing local zoning laws, but in St. Paul laws are slow to change.

Having a tiny house far away from the city isn’t as sustainable as having it in the city close to amenities and jobs and perhaps using public transportation.

Accessory dwellings units, which are tiny houses in people’s back yards have been permitted in St. Paul, since 2016. I have seen a few. They can only house relatives or be used as offices or studios.

Adu – from the city of St. Paul web site

I think there is a market for tiny condos in downtown St. Paul. There are spaces that are less than 500 square feet. They are never marketed as tiny condos but they should be. Most have full-sized kitchens which really seems like a waste of space. Why not have a galley kitchen? I like the idea of a Murphy bed too or a sleeper sofa that can double as a place to sit.

When something comes on the market in the area that is small I usually go see it. We all have the idea of a dream house, I dream small.

There are numerous websites dedicated to tiny houses and they can be built from kits that can be ordered online but there aren’t any kits for tiny condos. 🙂 We are not seeing micro-apartments yet but they are sure to travel from the coasts and make it inland in the next decade or so and eventually maybe we will be able to put some tiny houses on city lots.

Small houses on small lots

Longer days and more light

Ask any stager, real estate agent or designer and they will tell you that light matters. Generally more light is better. If you have a home to sell and can not afford to fix it up nice clean it, wash the windows and light the light shine in.

Remove heavy drapes and open the window blinds. The days are still too short to look at houses in the evening but that will change in a few weeks when daylight savings time starts.

Sometimes homebuyers are like moths. They are attracted to the light and they may not even realize that is why they love one house and like another.

Loft – This unit has huge windows and is East-facing
Well lit rooms
North Facing Home – photographed with lights on


Surveys and ratings


It is hard to find a real estate agent with ratings lower than five stars. I work with real estate agents and I am not buying it.

It is common these days for customers of any business to be hounded until they fill out a survey. One way to get five stars is to only send the surveys to people who are likely to give high ratings.

The surveys ask questions that don’t matter and few that do. Believe me, it is possible for someone to be responsive and still do a lousy job.

For most businesses, the survey isn’t about getting feedback. it is all about getting high ratings that will be noticed on the internet by persons searching for goods and services.

Try giving business honest feedback. Most of the time there isn’t a way to even communicate with anyone outside of the survey. Real estate brokers are responsible for the work of real estate agents. In most cases, it is impossible to find out who the broker is.

Some service providers will hound their clients to fill out a survey. When I hire people to work on my house I tell them up front that I won’t fill out the survey but if they would like some honest feedback I would be happy to send it to them.

One great way to choose a real estate agent is to ask friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers for recommendations and then interviewing the agent.

Keep in mind that one experience buying one house with the help of one agent doesn’t really make someone an expert that is why it is important to interview real estate agents.

Asking people that you know in person is much better than asking all of your Facebook friends to weigh in. The best recommendations come from people who have had recent experience buying or selling a house.

Spring in February

The spring real estate market is in full swing even though it is still winter and will be for several more weeks.  It has more to do with income tax refunds and returns than it has to do with the weather.

The graphic is a screenshot from the NorthStarMLS of activity over the last seven days. If I compare new listings with pending status listings I can see that demand for houses is strong.

activity dashboard
market activity in St. Paul for the last 7 days

Some homebuyers are getting refunds that will help with down payments.  Others are relieved that they don’t owe money and are ready to spend.

Here is a snapshot of home sales in January for the whole state:

Minnesota home sales
Minnesota home sales for January 2020