Free television

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. I am old enough to remember when television was free and there were antennas on roofs and in attics. There was no monthly bill and no subscription.

This week I re-discovered free TV. With nothing more than an inexpensive indoor antenna, we are getting high definition television. . . for free!

The antenna is a little fancier than the old ones were. It uses electricity and has a booster and cost $35 at Best Buy. I have to say the picture really is amazing and much better than what we were getting with DirectTV. There are 12 free channels. Who knew?

We are thrilled with the reception and overall ease of use and the fact that it is free makes it even more attractive. Did I mention it is free? Over the air, just like radio!

I am trying Sling TV which will be less than $25 a month once the trial is over. We already have Netflix and Amazon Prime and an Apple TV.  I am not sure about Sling because like the cable providers they have groups of channels. There are 7 or 8 channels that we might watch but we have to get a group of 45 channels to get the channels we want. Sound familiar? It seems to be a common business model.

It would be wonderful to just pay for the channels we want but that kind of service hasn’t been invented yet. At least Sling is easy to cancel. A person could just pay for it during the winter and cancel it in the summer. 🙂

It sounds complicated but it isn’t. I no longer have to call a 1-800 company to cancel, change or repair. No more being put on hold and listening to a recording that tells me how important my call is. no more listening to a person who is programmed to sell “service protection” plans. Those plans work like organized crime, customers are charged a fee for protection in addition to the fee for services.

As an unexpected bonus, I just learned how to turn a satellite dish into a booster for a TV antenna. Apparently, we can get more free channels that way, and it looks like it is pretty easy to do.

Is there mold in the house?

green house
House on Michigan Street – West 7th neighborhood

Mold is everywhere and it is more complicated than you might think. Most molds are not harmful to humans but all molds have the potential to be harmful to humans, or harmful to some humans.

There is no mold standard. With radon and other substances, there are thresholds and guidelines for how much is too much.

Mold can be removed from a home by removing moldy items and stopping moisture from getting in and or cleaning up the affected area. I am a fan of using chlorine bleach if possible.

Damp basements are common this time of year. I can usually tell by the smell if a basement is moldy.

There probably isn’t such a thing as a mold free house.

What about mold testing?

“Many people want to test their home for mold. In most situations, MDH does not recommend mold testing. There are several reasons for this:

Proper mold testing is expensive – If you can see or smell mold in your home, you know you have a mold problem. There are several ways to test for mold, and each test has different advantages. In order to get a good idea of a mold problem, several types of test are needed. It is usually better to use the money you would spend on testing to solve the moisture issues and clean up the mold.” [Minnesota Department of Health]

One of the best sources of information about mold and other sources of indoor air pollution is the Minnesota Department of Health.  Which is where I send home buyers who have questions. I am not qualified to say what is safe and what isn’t and I am not qualified to identify mold types.

Should you buy a house with mold in it?  Can you buy a mold free house?

Making mashed potatoes

I like to look at recipes and get ideas for what to cook for supper on the internet. I have noticed lately that I find “how to’ videos instead of old school recipes with a list of ingredients and some instructions.

A couple of days ago I landed on a video about how to make perfect mashed potatoes. I was kind of surprised because I think I learned the basics of mashed potatoes before I had double-digit birthdays.

The instructions were a bit complicated and involved a couple of extra steps. It really is simple to boil the potatoes whole or cut up, peeled or not. Once they are soft enough to mash I drain the water, add some milk and a little butter or not.

They can be seasoned or not, and them mashed with a potato masher, or in a pinch, a fork will do the job or they can be whipped with an electric mixer . . or not. Putting gravy on mashed potatoes works too.

In the video, there were a few extra steps and loads of advice. It must look like a lot of work to those who have never cooked potatoes.

Some of the advice I see online comes from writers and from content marketers and some of it comes from experts who actually have no experience. The person who made the potato video probably didn’t realize that her extra steps are unnecessary.

When it comes to real estate related articles I can immediately tell if the advice is coming from someone who is experienced or if they are a writer with no experience or a writer who did not consult an expert. I can sometimes tell by the headlines

Some of the real estate articles on national news sites are based on what people find interesting but contain no useful or accurate information. They are entertainment and nothing more.

There is a lot of mythology out there about buying and selling real estate. I totally understand where the kookie ideas that people come to me with come from. There are even TV shows that attempt to dramatize the home buying or selling process. Those shows are just entertainment for those who find such things entertaining.

It is safe to say that just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean that it is correct or true or a best practice or that it was written by someone with expertise.

Home turns into death trap

The use of the word “death trap” is probably overly dramatic but I see the same drama play out over and over again. People live in a home for decades. Children are raised in the home and maybe grandchildren visit.

The home goes on the market and the owner accepts an inspection contingent offer. The buyers have the inspection and many defects and safety hazards are found. The buyers have a list of repairs.

Don’t take it personally. Safety standards and local building codes are constantly changing. What may have been safe a decade ago isn’t considered safe today.

Your home might not meet today’s more rigorous safety standards. Some of the rules were made after someone died. The reason carbon monoxide detectors are required is that people in Minnesota have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their home as they slept.

Home buyers should not panic if the inspector finds some issues and don’t be afraid to ask for reasonable repairs. Consider the differences between upgrades, repairs and maintenance items.  It is appropriate to ask for a repair if something is broken or if it leaks. It is appropriate to ask for maintenance items like a boiler tune-up or a chimney cleaning.

Houses need roofs and working heating plants and water heaters too and sometimes it is appropriate to have them repaired or replaced at the owner’s expense.

Home buyers should take care with how they word their repair requests.  Keep them polite and specific. Keep judgments and opinions to yourself. Do not assume that the homeowner was aware of the deficiencies or that they were trying to hide something.

Sometimes after inspection, the right decision is to walk away. There are houses that need too much work for the average home buyer and are a better fit for someone who wants to rehab a house.

Boardman Realty recommends that all home buyers get a complete home inspection.

Also, see How to find Truth in housing reports

Getting a home inspection

Dear house flipper

what is happening in your home during the open house?

Last weekend I ended up attending a few open houses with some clients I was house hunting with. I had made appointments to see the homes and the appointments just happen to be at the same time as the open house.

When I go into an open house I introduce myself and my clients and I had the agent a business card.

One of the agents I met did not know anything about the house and could not answer buyer questions. He was also rude. He was young and did mention that it wasn’t his listing. Open houses really are for agents, not home sellers or buyers. They are a great way for new agents to meet homebuyers and attempt to get them under contract.

At another open house, I mentioned an obvious defect to my clients. The agent conducting the open overheard me and told me I was wrong. There was some back and forth and my clients were highly amused.

It isn’t wise to state that something isn’t broken. Agents and homeowners should never try to conceal defects. Saying that something is in working order is almost like a warranty and is certainly beyond the expertise of most real estate agents.

If she felt she had to say something she could have just acknowledge the remark without comment.

In another open house, two agents were talking to each other and totally ignored us after I handed them my card and introduced my clients. The better practice would be to ask the buyers if they have any questions and let the agent know she can call with questions if they come up later on. A pro might even give a pitch for the house and point out a feature that is special.

Open houses are supposed to be welcoming and they should be conducted by someone who is professional and knowledgable about the property. The person or persons should be outgoing and friendly to all who enter the home.

I don’t do open houses myself. Mainly because I do not enjoy them and I think it shows.  When I ask someone to do an open house for me I only consider people who are good at it. I know people who absolutely love doing opens and are able to act as gracious hosts.

We are in a strong seller market. All of the houses except that one overpriced house that we saw last weekend have offers on them. Which means that open houses probably are not necessary and a bad open house won’t ruin the chances of getting an offer.