2022 Part l ends today

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. Normally I would take this opportunity on July 1st to say something about how we don’t celebrate July 4th in St. Paul,  but today is too important for that because it is the last day of the first half of 2022. Tomorrow we start the second half.

Today is a good day to take stock. The year is half over. Are we going to make it? What will happen if we don’t achieve our goals?

Today also marks the beginning of the third quarter of 2022. Yes, that is correct Q3, and it is the first day of a new month.

I plan on doing something special to celebrate the end of 2022 part 1 and the beginning of part ll but at the moment I have no idea what that might look like.

My festive July planter


The last day of June is the perfect time to think about buckthorn

There are buckthorn hedges growing in various parts of St. Paul. Buckthorn is not a native species but was imported from Europe long ago and seems to like growing in our yards and parks.  The plant was originally used for hedges and I still see buckthorn hedges here and there.

Buckthorn is on the Minnesota DNR’s list of restricted noxious weeds.  You may recall a couple of years ago goats were hired to eat the buckthorn growing in Indian Mounds Park.

This year I found some buckthorn in my yard and my neighbors are growing a large buckthorn bush along a fence. The way to get rid of buckthorn is to pull it out and dig out the roots. The plant I found was fairly small and easy to remove. It was hiding near my lilac bushes.

The plant is fairly easy to identify. When in doubt look for thorns at the base of the leaves where they join the stem.

Buckthorn plants that are two inches in diameter or larger are best controlled by cutting the stem at the soil surface and then covering or treating the stump to prevent re-sprouting. Cutting can be effectively done with hand tools (for a few plants), chain saws, or brush cutters.

The Minnesota DNR has a lot of information about the plant and how to remove it. You will need a permit to have goats in your St. Paul yard but I suppose that is an option too.

Buckthorn Bush



Expensive mistakes made by homeowners

It is possible to spend too much time and money selling a house. Sometimes sellers get carried away and spend money they won’t get back.

A complete remodel of the kitchen is a great example of spending too much money to sell a house. Homeowners who lower their asking price because the kitchen is dated end up with more money in their pockets because the immediate return on investment for a new kitchen isn’t 100% it is more like 75% depending upon the price range of the house and its location.

If the kitchen is damaged or unusable then it should be repaired or upgraded. Go ahead and replace twenty-year-old appliances with new appliances that are comparable.  It is important to keep it in character and the price range of the house.

Fresh paint, a new backsplash, and some new lighting cost a lot less than a new kitchen and the return can be more than 100% if the house is on the market for a shorter period of time and gets multiple offers because of it.

Even during the current seller’s market pricing is important. A lower price list price can mean a higher sale price as the home sells faster with more offers.

If the goal is to live in the house for the next several years then remodeling the kitchen makes sense but if the goal is to sell the house now for top dollar consider making smaller less expensive improvements.

When getting a house ready to sell start with cleaning and decluttering.

After that consider repainting rooms in lighter more neutral colors that will make rooms appear and cleaner. Replace the golds and yellows and jewel tones with shades of white, beige, and grey. Tough-up painted trim.

Make repairs where needed. In the eyes of a home buyer, needed repairs may look huge and expensive.

It is important to look at selling your house as a business transaction.  It can be hard to be detached which is one of the reasons why people hire real estate agents.

A screen shot of the local housing market

By local, I mean St. Paul. If you look at the screenshot it shows that houses are still selling as fast as they can come on the market.  The number of newly listed homes is smaller than the number of closed listings and slightly larger than the number of pending sales. Price reductions are up a bit, those reductions will likely impact the closings we see in July. Next week I’ll have some numbers for June home sales.

Canceled and expired listings often show up again as “back on market”.

screen shot from MLS
Screenshot for St. Paul for the last 7 days from the Northsar MLS

You might have to live with snakes


In some parts of St. Paul garter snakes are abundant, in other parts, there are few. Even though the snakes are harmless some people can not tolerate even seeing them.

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.

Snakes do not respect property lines and there isn’t any way to keep them out. As a result, people end up having to move because they can not tolerate the site of snakes.

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 themselves along the foundation of my home or on the walkways.  On occasion, I have seen them come out of hibernation during the winter to catch a few rays.

They prefer to live in the ground and are found in compost heaps and wood piles and are plentiful along the river bluff in St. Paul in the residential areas.  Garter snakes are plentiful in parts of the West 7th neighborhood.  The soil on the bluff is warmer because of all the limestone close to the surface and that attracts garter snakes.

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 that there are bats or bees or strange-looking neighbors.

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.