Art & Cold


Gillette Children’s Hospital Mural on 4th and Wacouta in St. Paul, MN, the lowertown area of downtown St. Paul – December designs Inc.


St. Paul MN, is a wonderful place to live, just not today.  The air is cold and we will be down to -15 in the next few days.  We have had below zero wind chills for the past few days.  Please come back again, in about 10 days.  Most of the steam in the picture is coming from the downtown district heating plant.


I've got mail

Email_3 My blog generates email and some of it is not spam.  I recently received an email from a person who wanted to see a condo that is on the market.

The condo is not my listing but I  can show any property listed by any REALTOR.  I do however have to ask the person if they are currently under contract with a real estate agent.  They hate to be asked that question.   I can not work with a buyer who has an exclusive contract with another agent. 

By contract I mean a contract for exclusive representation by a real estate agent who will represent the buyer.  Buyers agents get paid through the sellers comission, but can only represent buyers that they have under contract. 

The woman who sent me the email responded by saying that she thinks she is under contract.  I followed up with another email and a phone call in an attempt to figure out if I could show her the condo.  Had it been my listing I would have just shown it to her because it would be within the scope of my duties and responsibilities to the seller.  I found it disturbing that she thinks she is under contract but does not know.  Anyone who signs a buyers contract with an agent will know that they did, and  must have a copy of that signed contract for it to be legally binding.

She believes that she entered into a contract with a REALTOR because she filled out an on line form.  I looked at the form and it is a bit misleading but is not a legally binding Minnesota real estate contract because it had no beginning or ending dates on it and was missing some other key pieces.

Since she believed that she was under contract I encouraged her to contact the agent and ask to see the condo.  She did say that she wanted to work with that agent but he did not respond to her email right away so she moved on thinking she could get me to show her the condo and then worry about the other details later.  I feel her pain, she just wants to see the condo, because she needs a place to live.

She has never met the agent and does not know him.  I asked why she chose him and she said "he looks like an earnest young man".  I went and looked him up, he is maybe 25 years old and has had a real estate license for about six months.  With so many agents in the business it is possible to find an agent who has some experience. 

Is this really a good way to choose a REALTOR?  He could be fantastic, or maybe not so fantastic.  The woman just wanted to see the condo.  This I understand.  When I explained to her what a buyers agent does she seemed blown away when I mentioned the contracts and explained representation. 

Buying a house is a big deal and so is choosing an agent.  My suggestion is to ask friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors if they know anyone who does a good job.  Interview the agents, ask a lot of questions, ask for references.  Choose someone that you feel you can trust.  Since you may be spending some time with your Realtor you may want to make sure that he or she is someone that you don’t mind being with.

Are they interested and knowledgeable on the neighborhoods and housing styles that you are most interested in?  Do they have time for you?  It makes no difference which real estate company they work with because it isn’t the real estate company that shows or sells houses, it is the agents. 

On line lead aggregators that have all of our listings and encourage consumers to "find an agent" are referral services.  No one checks the quality of the agents, any agent can sign up and pay for the leads.  Don’t become a lead. 

Don’t entrust your biggest most expensive purchase to an earnest face on the internet and don’t give away your contact information by filling out an on-line form so that you can become a lead for someone to put into their ‘drip email marketing campaign, you are smarter than that.  It is alright to find an agent on the internet.  I have met many of my clients that way but the internet is just an introduction. Ask questions and get references before signing anything.

For some guidance please see the Minnesota Attorney General’s Home Buyers Handbook.  It is a little out of date, and in a PDF format but it is still the best resource around and is not written by anyone who is trying to sell something.

Colonial Style


The colonial style architecture started in England and then moved to the English Colonies in the 1720’s.  This particular home is in the Georgian style which is American Colonial architecture.  Homes like this one were built in the Eastern states in the late 18th century.   Minnesota did not become a state until the 1850’s, the home in the picture was built in the early 1900’s. 

If you are interested in buying a home like this in St. Paul, we do have homes in this style in all sizes and price ranges. 


Winter Carnival

Hilexsm_1 By Erik Hare

What do you do when the temperature hits zero and there’s a strong north wind? Throw a party, of course! Outdoors. And that’s just what Saint Paul does.

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is our annual festival celebrating the biting cold.  It’s held around January 28th, the coldest day of the year on average.  It is Saint Paul’s  own tradition, complete with mythology and more than a little fun.

It all started in 1885 when a smarmy New York reporter decried Saint Paul as “Another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.”  The city fathers were outraged, but got their revenge in a unique way – and the next year the Carnival was born, with this legend:

(King) Boreas of the Winds, while on his extensive travels, came upon a winter paradise known as Minnesota. He paused to behold the enchanting beauty of a magnificent group of seven gently sloping hills in whose embrace nestled a beautiful city. Boreas whistled in sheer ecstasy. "Historic Saint Paul and her seven hills! An ideal place. I will make Saint Paul the capital of all my domains. It will henceforth be emblazoned to the world as the winter playground of the realm of Boreas".

But it was not to be forever, as spring will come one day.  There is a bit of chaos and fun throughout the realm that foreshadows the ultimate end:

On the tenth day of celebration, Vulcanus Rex and his Krewe stormed the Ice Palace. Upon the good council of his queen, Boreas bade farewell to the people of his winter capital in the interest of peace and goodwill and returned to dwell among the gods of Olympus. Boreas and his Court looked forward to the time when summer’s warmth would once again relinquish its hold on the realm and the frosty atmosphere of winter would prevail.

And so it goes. We open it all with the Grand Day Parade, when King Boreas proclaims and greets his realm.  Ten days later, he is dethroned each year in an elaborate ceremony that ends with the Torchlight Parade.  It is a sight chilling in majesty and warming with the promise of the cycles of the years. 

The Carnival has many other events between the parades, with ice and snow sculptures dotting our Downtown and a great sled run set up on Harriet Island.  Some years we even build a palace out of ice.  No matter what, it’s a lot of fun and tradition and sheer stubbornness that gets us outside when more timid souls would stay at home.

That’s what makes Saint Paul so great, after all.  We don’t really care what other people think, we just go ahead and make our own fun.  You can join, if you want – or if you’re brave enough, that is!

Erik failed to mention that he took this picture at the parade, the windchill is -10, yet when I drove through dowtown St. Paul, this afternoon the streets were full of people young and old enjoying the carnival. – Thanks Erik!

Saturday's Church


Here in the Saintly city we have a lot of churches, but not as many churches as bars.  With 210-foot twin towers of Assumption Church, the oldest church in St. Paul, are familiar downtown landmarks. The beautiful German Romanesque revival structure was built of local limestone between 1869 and 1873 by a German Catholic parish.  It is impossible to photograph without people walking by, even on a day with sub-zero wind chills.