Sellers, Can we talk?

Mediummags3d116 My knee hurts.  I know you don’t want to hear about my aches and pains, but as long as you are here you may as well read the rest.

It is winter, the days are short and it is cold out.  You knew that already, please bear with me.

I go out house hunting with my client after he gets done working for the day.  It is pitch black outside.  Some homes have for sale signs on them others do not.  We drive down the street using my handy GPS system, Miles,  until we get to the right block.

I ask  my client to open the window and shine my flash light on the houses as we drive by so we can see the addresses.  He hesitates but knows that it is a long walk back to his car so he honors my request.  The neighbors scurry over to their windows and look out as we slowly cruise by shining the bright light on the houses.  So far the police have only been called once when I was outside a home shining my flash light on it, we were trying to look at the roof and the windows, the officer gave no indication that I had used my flashlight in an illegal manner.

We find the house, and walk  to the front door.  I don’t notice the ice on the walk and twist my knee as I try to maintain my balance while at the same time trying not to fall the wrong way and take the home buyer down with me.  It is always at that exact moment that I remember,  I am self employed and my disability insurance is indeed limited.  I manage to remain standing, but twist my knee in the process. 

My client holds the flash light so that I can work my keypad, and release the key from the lock box.  The screen is back lit so I can choose the right menu but the numeric keypad is hard to see.   I am lucky that it is not a push button lock box, these must have been designed by a genius.  If the box is white, it has white numbers on it, if it is black the numbers are black, they can not be seen even with a flashlight. 

On those I touch the buttons counting as I go, pressing the four button combination needed to unlock the box and release the key.  I believe that if I ever do meet the person who came up with this popular design I may have some suggestions on how the product could be re-engineered and made a little more human friendly.  A couple of weeks ago my knuckle hit a sharp edge on one of the boxes, my hands were cold and I did not notice until I saw a lot of blood and realized that it was my own.

We use the flashlight to find our way into the house, taking care to remove our shoes and leave them on the minute rug in the entryway without leaving a glob of snow on the floor and then stepping in it.     I move on through the house, turning on lights.  If we are lucky cujo is in the Cujo2 kennel or he is not vicious.   I have only gotten bitten by a dog once while showing a home and so far I have been fast enough to dodge kitty before he lands, although once kitty got away and I ended up chasing him down the street in the snow while my shoes sat on the minute rug in the front entryway. (It is a huge no no for a REALTOR to let the cat get away)

I have to admit that the ferrets did give me a scare, when I flipped on the light and they were right in front of me,  as did the life sized, fully clothed mannequin in the dark room in the corner of the basement.  My client and I both screamed at the same time and were kind of embarrassed about it later, but we did have a good laugh.   I have heard men scream before but not all that often.  I rarely scream, I am not sure but screaming may even be a violation of the REALTOR code of ethics.

As we leave the house, I glance at my notes, the showing instructions emphasize that I am to turn off all of the lights and make sure that all doors are locked including the deadbolt.  I follow the instructions and really feel sorry for the next agent that has to show the home. 

Thanks for listening.  My knee still hurts but I do feel better now that I have had the chance to get this all out in the open.  It really does help to leave lights on, especially in front.  It is hard to find the right address or unlock the door in the dark.  My buyer really wants to buy a house and I want to help him, please help me get your house sold.

Neighborhood housing prices

In the past few days several people have asked or emailed about home values in specific St. Paul neighborhoods.  I have made some charts and graphs from the data in our local multiple listing service (RMLS)  I will publish similar reports next week for neighborhoods in Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Washington and Dakota Counties.  Please click on chart to see all neighborhoods.


The same numbers as listed in the chart are listed below in table format.


Here is a reference chart to convert the MLS numbered areas into neighborhood names.


Not something you see every day

Gravity Like a trip back in time.  We found this in the basement of a Minneapolis home.  Fairly unusual, I encounter one of these a year, usually in the older neighborhoods near downtown St. Paul.

Some people call them octopus furnaces because of the way the heat ducts take up the whole basement.  They are called gravity furnaces.  This particular unit burns heating oil.

The gravity furnace is like a forced air furnace except with out the force.  The air is heated, the hot air rises up through the duct work.  These furnaces last forever but are often replaced because they are not energy efficient.  The large asbestos wrapped duct work makes home owners a bit nervous.   Handling and removing the asbestos is best left to a professional and cost a couple thousand dollars.

The Foreclosure Process

Foreclosure_2  A quick search of the Internet looking for consumer information on how to avoid foreclosure, yields articles written in legalese,  or ads marketing to buyers letting them know that they can buy foreclosures cheap, or information that is really advertising by law firms to home owners.  In most cases the point of the information is to get consumers to call or to fill out an on-line form so that they can be come a lead for someone who is selling some thing.  Fair enough, a person has to make a living somehow.

State and Federal Government web sites have limited hard to find information on them that is often in PDF or DOC format, making it difficult for consumers to access.   National web sites have generic information, on them.  Real estate is local and locally regulated, persons facing foreclosure in Minnesota need to know how the process works in Minnesota.  This is true about many or maybe most national web sites that pertain to any aspect of real estate.

If I were behind on my payments I would want to do a little research and figure out what to do next, it is unlikely that I would want to discuss the situation with a total stranger, or sign up on a web site giving up my personal information to someone who may be unethical or worse yet a spammer, the lowest form of life on our planet.

The local newspapers have done a fantastic job covering foreclosures caused by mortgage fraud and have even given some advice to home owners but not in great detail.  It seems like everyone is trying to make some money off of people who have little.

Here is a high level overview of how foreclosure works in Minnesota.

1.  A buyer purchases a home and gives a Mortgage to a bank.  The home is used to secure the loan, if the borrower doesn’t make the agreed to payments the bank can take the home away through the foreclosure process.   Most mortgage agreements include a “power of sale” which allows the bank to sell the home, if the borrower does not make the payments as stipulated in the reams of paper signed at the closing.

2.  If the buyer gets behind on payments or stops making them altogether, the lender can demand payment in full and begin the foreclosure process any time they want to. This is called the equitable redemption period and lasts as long as the lender will allow.  The home owner could call the lender and try to work something out.  Maybe make some payments, or give a date by which they can be caught up again.

Keep in mind that the foreclosure process is costly for the lender.  It is hard to call the bank when they are calling and mailing and hounding for the payment but talking and cooperating may be the best way to retain ownership of the home.

3.  If buyer can not make the payments or the lender will not accept anything less than what is owned right now, the foreclosure process begins, and the home owner does have the option of selling the home and using the proceeds to pay off the mortgage.  The home owner has the option of giving the home back to the bank, which does not save the home but is less damaging to the home owners credit rating than a foreclosure is. (we call this a deed in lieu)  In some cases the bank may accept less than what is owed on the property and allow what is called a “short sale”

5.  If the lender starts the foreclosure process a notice of a sheriffs auction is publish to the public once a week for six weeks.  During this process the borrower is notified, by delivery, once a week for four weeks that the home will be sold at auction.

6.  The sheriffs auction is held.  The property is sold or maybe not.  The home owner does not have to leave the property because there is still another step.

7.  The statutory redemption period begins after the auction, it can be as short as five weeks if the owner abandons the property.  The definition of the abandonment is a legal definition and does not necessarily mean the owners left the property.   Having the utilities shut off, windows broken, a missing front door, or police calls to the property because of trespassing or disturbances can constitute abandonment.

In most cases the redemption period is six months long, if the owner has a great deal of equity in the property it is 12 months long.  During the redemption period the owner can pay everything they owe and all the costs associated with the auction and keep the home.  They can sell the home during this period and pay off the mortgage. – – In some cases they hook up with a crook who pays it off and charges them so much that they are in worse shape and the crook gets the house, sometimes for really cheap — equity stripping a topic for another post.

8.  After the six month or 12 month redemption period ends, the home owner has to leave the property.  If the property was purchased during the sheriffs auction and was sold for more than the owner owed on it, the owner gets the excess.  If sold for less than the owner owed on it then the lender can take legal action to collect the difference.

9.  If the home was not sold at the sheriffs auction then it is most often listed by a Realtor who specializes in selling bank owned properties.  These homes are usually listed at a price reflective of the market value of the home.

The bottom line is by signing the mortgage papers the buyer is agreeing to all of this.  Banks are in businesses and they lend money to make money.  There is also such a thing as mortgage fraud, and our new Attorney General is on a mission to get rid of mortgage fraud in Minnesota through stricter legislation.  There are some serious flaws some where in our system. Research has shown the foreclosures rates are the higher in some neighborhoods than in others.

If you are a home owner struggling to make payments here are some places to go for help

Related posts: Foreclosures

I extend an open invitation to any mortgage lender or attorney that would like to add value to this post. No track-back or comment spam please!   Since we helped sell or finance the homes that are facing foreclosure, wouldn’t it be nice it we could also help someone keep that home?

Resources:  Home ownership Center  Abusive & Predatory Lending  HUD – Help For Home Owners

Honors come to St. Paul RE

Copy_of_tbface It has been an exciting, and unusual week!  If I had known that almost 1000 people were coming to visit my blog yesterday I would have tidied up a bit, I spent most of the day with clients and did not know what was going on until I got a phone call from a Realtor in Orlando.

Yesterday we were mentioned in Realty Times online magazine:

Do Real Estate Blogs Really Build Business?
Is a blog today’s must-have in the real estate business? Some proponents say yes.

The Chicago Tribune

Real estate agents hang blogging signs
Though practitioners remain few, experts see industry on the cusp of a blogging revolution.  We shared this honor with Chicago’s top blog writers:

Fran Bailey of Chicago Metro Real Estate , Dan Green of The Mortgage Reports  Joe Zekas of Yo! Chicago, Jeff Kerr of ChitownLiving.  The reporter found me through the Real Estate Tomato blog.

"St. Paul agent Teresa Boardman, who recently was dubbed a "real estate blogging goddess" by The Real Estate Tomato"

Later in the day a post I wrote for the Real Estate Tomato, an advice blog, for Realtors on real estate blog writing, was a winner in the weekly carnival of real estate., hosted by Aaron Dickinson’s  The Minneapolis Real Estate Update   Keeping Local Real Estate  . . . Well Local

I received the greatest honor I could receive last week from a peer in the Real Estate industry and am remiss for not mentioning it sooner.  John Lockwood, a Broker from Sacramento CA, reviewed St. Paul Real Estate Blog last week.  John’s blog is one of the best in the industry: John is my favorite heckler, he leaves comments on the posts I write for the Real Estate Tomato and keeps me in line.  He is kind of my own cyber stalker and I never know where he will show up next.  Some how we became friends, but he still lets me know what he thinks when I write something that he does not agree with.

I hope I can live up to my new title of  real estate blogging goddess.   I love what I do and writing a blog about it is more fun than work.  When I first started I worried about what both of my readers would think.  Now that I have more than two readers I feel a little pressure to write good consumer and real estate related content, because I know that people are reading it.  Stop by tomorrow and read about foreclosures and see my invitation to lenders, lawyers and Real estate agents to join the conversation.

Twin Cities Real Estate Agents – Keller Williams realty has a class that covers web logs and is open to all agents from all companies.  Please contact the Inver Grove Heights office 651-379-2800  or our Arden Hills office 651-216-203-1700 if interested.