Don’t discriminate when it comes to down payments

coinsMaybe your real estate agent suggested you reject an offer where the buyer is using downpayment assistance in favor of an offer with no down payment assistance.

There isn’t any rational reason to reject an offer based on that alone. Until recently a special box had to be checked on the purchase agreement indicating that the buyer is using down payment assistance. Home buyers using cash or maybe a gift from mom and dad were not required to mention it on the purchase agreement.

That has finally been changed. It is now possible to buy a house using downpayment assistance funds without having to worry about downpayment assistance discrimination.

There are downpayment assistance programs that first-time home buyers can and should take advantage of. Generally, they run out of funds before we run out of year.

Here is a link to find out more about downpayment assistance programs.

The city of St. Paul has spent around 1.5 million dollars on down payment assistance loans and grants.  The city also has rehab/fix-up loans and grants. Available to current home owners.

The City of Saint Paul also offers homeowners no-interest deferred loans for basic and emergency improvements. Qualified homeowners can receive up to $40,000 and homeowners eligible for the Inheritance Fund layers can receive up to $120,000. Once funding is secured, the City of Saint Paul disburses the payments to the contractors when the project is complete. Applications are open year-round until funding is no longer available.

The Inheritance Fund addresses lost generational wealth and lost community wealth separately. Qualifying descendants can receive up to $100,000 in Downpayment assistance to purchase a home anywhere in the city to address lost generational wealth. If they further choose to purchase their home within the boundaries of historic Rondo, they may receive an additional $10,000 in assistance to recognize the lost community wealth being addressed with the homebuyer’s investment in the historic Rondo community.

Sellers do not need to fear these programs. Buyers will have a pre-approval letter from a lender just like any other buyer should have.

Over the years I have worked with several buyers who have successfully purchased a home using downpayment assistance.

The relationship between clicks and offers

We have a lot of data these days. Much more than we had when I started in real estate 21 years ago. We can find out how many times someone clicked on one of our listings on any of the major real estate portal websites.

On some sites, we can see if our listings got more visits than similar listings.

We can also see if the listing was “favorited” by a buyer and if that buyer has a local agent we get that information too through “reverse prospecting”. When someone shares one of our listings with a friend we can see that it was shared.

The information is interesting but I have yet to see a correlation between clicks and offers.

It is true that people who are not planning to buy a house anytime soon will spend hours looking at them online. That is a good thing because those future buyers become more familiar with the housing market.

house in winter

In the end, to sell a house we need one good offer. Only one person can buy it. If a lot of people are looking at it online we know that it is being well advertised and that the type of property and maybe even the price appeals to a large group of people.

I sometimes look at historic houses online because I like historic houses. I also get ideas for staging by looking at homes that are for sale. Looking at real estate photography has helped me to perfect my own real estate photography.

How many times does a home get shared, viewed, or saved before it gets an offer? Is the number a constant or does it vary by neighborhood and price range?  Sometimes the offer comes the day the house goes on the market because someone saw a for-sale sign.

I have also found that some housing styles get more attention online yet they take longer to sell. Lofts are an example of that most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong it is nice to have all of that data but sometimes I think people attach more meaning to it than they should. We do know that people look at n average of 6 to 12 houses before they buy one but that doesn’t include time spent looking at pictures online.

I use analytics on this site which will turn 18 later this year. I know from experience that when the traffic goes up we usually see an increase in real estate buying and selling activity six weeks later.

Rethinking the refrigerator


Reducing food waste has been a priority at my house. I am not sure that zero waste is doable but it is the goal.

In 2020 when it was time to replace the refrigerator I bought a smaller one. It was a challenge at first, especially with the pandemic and all but the truth is if I fill up the smaller fridge some of the food in it will spoil before we can eat it.

There are not many foods that require refrigeration that stay fresh for very long.

The smaller refrigerator helped us reduce food waste. We have plenty to eat yet the refrigerator is rarely very full and there isn’t much waste.

Fresh produce keeps for about a week. Most dairy products will keep for ten days or so. Eggs keep for a long time and so does butter. Condiments keep for weeks or months.

There were foods that I was putting in the refrigerator that didn’t belong there at all. Sometimes the fridge becomes convenient storage.

The freezer is another matter but frozen foods do not keep indefinitely either. Food tends to get buried or lost in the freezer. Frost kills the flavor and some of it gets dried out.

People who are interested in reducing their food waste should take a closer look at their kitchen and how they are using it. Maybe a smaller refrigerator and freezer will help reduce food waste. It definitely helped us and as a bonus, it uses less energy.

Sometimes it seems as though we do our best to fill up every cupboard and refrigerator shelf. Food prices have gone way up. Cooking takes time but it also saves money and the ingredients seem to take up less space than ready-to-eat foods.

Do you know what is in your refrigerator?


You found a house on the internet

porchFor the last 25 years or so people have been able to search the internet and find houses that are for sale. There are people who believe that because of this real estate agents are no longer needed.

Finding a house that is for sale is just one step in the home-buying process. It is the easiest step because in most cases all a buyer has to do is search the internet to find a home for sale.

Most of the houses were put on the internet by real estate agents.

When I want to help a buyer find a house I search the MLS (multiple listing service) through the internet.

In most cases, after a potential home buyer finds a house on the internet they want to see it in person. If they decide they want to buy it they need to figure out how much to offer. There also need to decide on the rest of the terms that will go into their offer.

The offer needs to be written. We call that a purchase agreement. The agreement could be drawn up on almost any piece of paper but usually, that won’t be enough space for all of the details.

People who have purchased real estate in the past have an easier time of it but the laws and rules changed often. No two properties are the same and each homeowner and buyer are unique too. I have helped hundreds of people buy and sell real estate and it is a little different each time. That is what keeps it all interesting.

Real estate agents also help people get ready so that if they do find that perfect house that they want to buy they can buy it.

Send in the clowns

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. As a native St. Paulite, I usually manage to attend a few winter carnival events. One of my favorites is the Grand Day Parade which is happening tomorrow January 28th.

Saturday, Jan 28 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

The King Boreas Grande Day Parade is our daytime procession down West 7th Street featuring dozens of bands, floats, and, of course, the newly crowned King Boreas and his Royal Family.

The route:

West 7th at Smith to 5th Street to Washington to 4th Street and disassembly will start at Market on 4th.  Disassembly will continue to Wabasha. All Hotel Guests will be directed to Kellogg and Market for entry and exit Market to 5th street.

Warm Up In Our OFFICIAL WARMING HOUSES at Mancini’s, Tom Reid’s, and Apostle Supper Club!

The weather will be perfect for it. 9 above zero with 7 to 10 MPH winds. Some folks view the parade from heated skyways and from inside buildings. To them, I say: “toughen up buttercup!”

It is all about dressing in layers. I’ll admit as a native I have a collection of warm coats, hats, mittens, and my big heavy warm boots with felt liners.

Here is a photo from one of the colder grand day parades on January 25, 2014. Temperatures were slightly above zero but there was a 21-mile-an-hour wind which greeted a windchill. it felt like -30. You can kind of see the cold in the picture.

clowns in a parade
Clowns marching along West 7th street 2014

Justus Ramsey house to be moved

The Justus house located on the patio of Burger Moes on West 7th street may be the oldest dwelling in St. Paul. It is made of limestone and is one of the few remaining limestone dwellings.

It has been in the news because it was slated for demolition. The building has been allowed to fall into disrepair or maybe it was helped along the way, we don’t really know.

The building will be saved. According to an article in the Pioneer Press, “St. Paul City Council approves $84,000 to disassemble, store historic Justus Ramsey House. An attorney said he plans to move the house elsewhere on West Seventh Street and open a home office.”

I watched a stone house being moved 20 years ago or so. They are very heavy with two-foot thick walls.

Who was Justus Ramsey? he was the brother of Alexander Ramsey was the governor of Minnesota when it was a territory and he was the second governor of Minnesota.

I have been inside the structure but not for many years. It was simple inside and very small for a house.

Some of the oldest buildings in the city of St. Paul are located in the West 7th area close to downtown. The first settlers in St. Paul settled near what is now Irvine Park and the city grew from there.

My own house, also located in the West 7th neighborhood was built in about 1858. It is defiantly unique but not large and ornate like the nearby Victorian-era houses built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Limestone house
Justus Ramsey house

My memories of the house go way back. At one point it was a small shop. Many thanks to Historic Saint Paul for fighting to save the little stone house. We have lost many historic houses and buildings. Some were bulldozed for business expansions, and road expansions and some were replaced with parking lots.