Open enrollment makes me crabby


I am one of those people that you read about who has to pay her own health insurance. As a self-employed person, the system is set up so that I don’t get lower group rates, those are for large employers.

Also, I am old. The older a person is the more expensive health insurance is. Just because I paid into it my whole life and have not needed much in the way of health care doesn’t mean I get a break now. Rates go up every year.

Our largest household expense each month is health insurance and it would be worse but I have the crappy bronze plan with the sky-high deductible and a Health Savings Account.

The health insurance is very expensive and the actual health care is poor. Partly because the insurance company controls the amount and type of care given.

When we go for medical treatment, there are no price lists and there are  “gotcha” charges for “out of network” services which can be anything a hospital decides a patient needs. I have tried asking ahead of time how much something is going to cost and nobody knows. Instead of getting an answer they ask me if I have insurance but the insurance.

In addition to figuring out which plan I should choose during the open enrollment, I have to deal with an online health insurance marketplace that doesn’t work well and if I have a question I can expect to be put on hold for hours.

I have often wondered how many entrepreneurs there are out there who never reach their full potential as they stay in dead-end jobs because of health insurance. Health insurance is just another way that corporations can keep people working in jobs that really suck.

Our household receives marketing materials from insurance companies every day. That is part of what we pay for when we pay for health insurance. We are also paying for those fancy office buildings and clinics not to mention the sky-high salaries of insurance company executives.

Billions of dollars are spent on what is called BIR (billing and insurance-related) costs.

It would be nice if there were no insurance companies and if we could just pay for medical care.

The health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are great examples of how people with the money are making the laws. The medical industry gives billions of dollars of our money to politicians who make laws that favor the medical industry over their constituents.  There are laws about group rates and about who can get employer-based insurance and who can not.

Once open enrollment is over I do my best not to think about health insurance because I need to keep my blood pressure in check. I don’t want to pay for the drugs that people take for high blood pressure.

Holiday decorations and for sale signs

I get asked this question every year.  Homeowners who have their homes on the market during the holidays want to know if it is a good idea to put up holiday decorations.  The correct answer is . . it depends.

A wreath on the door and some holiday decorations inside can help sell your house because to some it will look more like a home. . . but covering every square inch with your Santa bear collection and a couple of trees and holiday rugs and pillows, snow globes and ribbons . . isn’t going to help at all.  I have seen homes with so many holiday decorations that it looks like clutter.

People do move in the winter. Often people who are relocating for work move at the end or beginning of the year.

These days homes sell fairly quickly. If you put your house on the market today you may have an offer by the weekend and be able to decorate for the holidays as you get ready for the closing and pack up to move.

My apologies for putting a wreath on my blog in mid-November.



memories of the world not ending

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. So far this has been a long cold Winter and we are only halfway through November which means there are only 37 days until Winter begins and 40 days until Christmas. It has only been 60 days since we started seeing Christmas items on store shelves.

11/12/13 at 11:12:13 was supposed to be when the world would end. I think there was at least one day in 2012 that was supposed to be the last day and that was 12/12/12. Did you see what I did there? I left off the 20 from 2012 so that I got 3 12’s in a row which is pretty creepy.

As I recall people were concerned as we approached 11/11/11 too.

If I have to choose between winter and the end of the world it is an easy choice.

snow and cold will come

Why aren’t my rates published?


Why aren’t my “rates” published? Good question and I have heard it a few times. I usually charge a commission that is payable after a successful closing. My rates are always negotiable and I don’t charge the same in every situation.

Usually, my commission is based upon the sale price of the real estate I am selling. I do sometimes charge an hourly rate for my services.

I don’t charge the same amount in every situation. I generally give discounts to past clients.

The only time I get paid is after a successful closing. That means I can do my job and if a home loan falls through I don’t get paid.

Most people would rather have a job with a steady paycheck and benefits than wake up every morning unemployed like I do.

Some homeowners believe that there is a kind of standard rate that we all charge. Brokers are not allowed to discuss commissions with each other or set prices. I don’t have any way of finding out what the average commission is.

The people who “know” how much we all charge usually end up paying more. They kind of tell me how much I charge and I just go along with it. Why not?

If someone wants to negotiate a rate that I think is too low, I just say no. Sometimes the customer will offer more and other times I move on.

There is a kind of standard negotiating tactic that real estate agents are taught to use where they more or less say that if they accept a lower commission they are not good enough negotiators to get the best price for the house.

I don’t use that argument because it is the homeowners who decide how much they will accept and it is my job to help them get it. When I agree to a lower commission I still work just as hard to do my job.

There isn’t any law that says that a company has to publish a price list. It isn’t illegal to buy or sell real estate without the help of a real estate agent either, which is one of the many reasons why I consider it a privilege to work with my clients and I thank them for choosing me.

A stable housing market

The housing market in St. Paul has been stable and consistent in the last few years. The number of homes sales is trending down slightly because there are fewer homeowners who wish to sell.

If you are planning to buy a house this Fall or during the winter you will likely encounter competition and multiple offers. Home sellers can expect

There are currently only 600 houses on the market.

The graph shows the inventory of houses for sale over the last ten years. The data used to make the graph is from the NorthstarMLS which is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Home for sale – St. Paul

What is the MLS

There is a company called “MLS on line” but it isn’t the MLS. MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. Those local listings that might be found on Zillow or any real estate website or Realtor dot com probably got there via a data feed from the Northstar MLS.

I often explain the MLS to my clients. There are a lot of rules about the data because accuracy is very important. A 1.5 story house can not be listed as a two-story house. If the home has two bedrooms we can’t just call it a three-bedroom. Inaccuracies are quickly reported and changes are made to keep it accurate.

Homes can not be put in the MLS unless there is a listing contract between the real estate broker and the property owner.

I found this nifty little info-graphic that explains the MLS . . well at least kind of. I like to think of it as a real estate market place. Those who wish to avoid it can sell their own home without listing it with a real estate company.

When listing with a REALTOR homeowners can give authorization to keep their home off the MLS. It is rarely if ever in the homeowner’s best interests to keep their home off the MLS.

The MLS is also part of the reason home buyers can search for free and real estate agents do not have to pay to have a home for sale show up on multiple websites.

The MLS in action

Also see Broker Reciprocity

Oh and MLS also stands for Major League Soccer, and NAR stands for National Association of Realtors or National Association of Rocketry.