Got buckthorn?

Buckthorn is on the Minnesota DNR’s list of restricted noxious weeds. It is an invasive species that was imported from Europe and used for hedges. 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



Open houses and home sellers

Open houses have probably been around for as long as there have been houses. I am not referring to graduation open houses but to the kind of open house that real estate agents have so that buyers can see the house.

It isn’t necessary to have an open house in order to sell a house. Everyone knows a story about how someone went to an open house, fell in love with the house and bought it.

That is a rare occurrence it could be that it just happened a few times and everyone knows the story.

Houses will sell without an open house but real estate agents like to do opens so that they can meet potential home buyers who may be looking for a home and an agent to help them buy a house.

New agents, in particular, need to have open houses so that they can meet people and start building a client base. As visitors sign-in, they become “leads”.

There are some things sellers should do before an open house:

  1. Lock up any drugs.
  2. Remove pictures of small children.
  3. Remove valuables from the home or lock them up.
  4. Lock up important and confidential documents.
  5. Make sure that wall calendars and notes on the fridge don’t have any confidential information in them.

It isn’t just potential home buyers who show up at open houses. There are curious neighbors and people who have friends or children who might be interested in the house.

There are people who would like to buy the house but they are not able to. Sometimes people who used to live in the house show up to look it over.

I sometimes go through open houses with my buyers or I go because I know the agent and I want to say hi.

Sometimes your own agent will do the open sometimes other agents with the same company will do it. It is fairly common to run into inexperienced agents at open houses who can not answer simple questions about the house.

Open houses can be dangerous for agents who are in the house all alone.

Buyers should keep in mind that the agent in the open house is representing the sellers and should refrain from saying anything that might give the homeowner the upper hand in negotiating an offer. . . although now that I think about it owners already have the upper hand.

Hire a pro inspector instead of your friend

I see a lot of houses, like hundreds of old St. Paul houses every year. I have seen hundreds of inspection reports and have been on well over a hundred home inspections. There is always something that needs fixing in an old house and sometimes it needs so much work that buyers decide not to buy it.

Having a complete home inspection is an important step in the home buying process but those inspections are not free. Sometimes, buyers, have friends or relatives conduct the inspection.

What could possibly go wrong? Usually, these helpful friends or relatives miss a few important things. They don’t check the furnace or the water heater. They miss the fact the garbage disposal doesn’t work or that the new furnace does not have a filter in it.

They might not notice missing window screens or even cracked window glass. They may miss the gaps between the shower surround and the bathroom wall, or that the back door lacks any kind of weather stripping.

The helpful and knowledgeable friend does not use a systematic approach nor does he give the home buyer a report with pictures and recommendations. Usually, the friend does an incomplete or partial inspection.

If they are not familiar with the older houses in the inner city they may not know what some of the common problems are like ungrounded electrical systems and tree roots in the sewer line.

On the one hand, the buyer saves money because professional inspectors will generally charge at least $300. On the other hand, they may end up paying for repairs that they could have had the seller pay for if they had known about them during the inspection period.

Home sales and prices by neighborhood

Home prices in St. Paul are at an all-time high. The average sale price homes in St. Paul was higher than the average list price in May or 2019.

Multiple offers on homes that are for sale are common and that drives the price up. It is a wonderful market for home sellers but not so wonderful for buyers.  We usually see the highest prices of the year between April and June and I noticed that pending sales were slightly lower in May than they were in April, while new listings were up from April. Maybe it is an anomaly or maybe the market is cooling a tiny bit.

chart of home sales by neighborhood
May home sale data for St. Paul, MN

The data used to make the table was exported from the NorthstarMLS. The data is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

For more local numbers go to Local Market Conditions and Home prices.

For fixing things

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. Here are two of my favorite things for fixing stuff. Zip Strips and metal clips. Zip strips come in a variety of sizes and colors. I think we have every size. They have more uses than I can list.

I use them for outdoor holiday decorations and recently I used s few to create hangers for some mops and brooms so that I could hang them on some pegs. They are strong and the only way to remove them is by cutting them.

The metal clips are a real estate thing. We use them to attach the sign rider to the bottom of the sign. Zip stips work for that too. I use the metal Clippy things to secure my pannier bags to my bike. I have also used them as hooks for hanging planters. They have some of the same uses “S” hooks have but they are more secure.

If you are going to fix something this weekend go get some Zip Strips. The clippey things, have to be ordered. I order them from my sign company.  Just google “metal sign rider clips” to find them the online.


Home improvement