Did you get an agency disclosure when you went to an open house?

Marcie – Reading all about agency in real estate

This is a kind of public service message I write each spring about agency in Minnesota.

Here are some basics:  If you list your house with a real estate agent and that agent brings in an offer from a buyer that she is representing you now have dual agency which means that the agent cannot represent the buyer or the seller but instead becomes a facilitator. The agent facilitates the sale and can not do anything to the advantage of one party and the detriment of another.

What most home sellers and buyers do not understand is what a broker is. All real estate agents work under a broker. If the listing agent and the buyers agent both work for the same broker that is dual agency.

There are a couple of large real estate companies in the area that have one broker for a few thousand agents.  When they list your home they will tell you all about the networking and how they will market your home to other agents. What they don’t tell you is that if one of those agents brings in a buyer those agents go from being able to advocate for their clients to being facilitators.

Homebuyers need to be aware when they go into an open house or new construction the nice agent who is showing them around is representing the seller and anything they say can be to their detriment later on. Buyers should choose an agent to work with who will work for them as an advocate and not just a facilitator.

Real estate is locally regulated and the law may be different in your state.

Related articles about dual agency Agency and dual agencyAgency in real estateAgency and the open houseAgency? What is agency?What consumers should know about agency

Buying a house and making repairs

brick turretMost of the houses I sell are old because St. Paul has mostly old houses and that is mainly where I work. My own house is over 165 years old. I have sold new houses and new construction too.

One mistake old house buyers commonly make is to try and fix and or upgrade everything right away. That isn’t a good idea. A home buyer can end up spending too much money.

The best approach, and this advice is from a Realtor® and an old house owner is to come up with a plan. Prioritize repairs and upgrades and create a budget. Start with a big list and break it down into a 3 or 5 year plan.

Also have an emergency fund. Things wear out in any house. It helps to have funds available to replace major appliances.

It is important to keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be fixed right away.

Owning an old house, or a historic house like mine isn’t for everyone but all houses require maintenance and periodic repairs. Most everything in a house can be upgraded.

Happy Tax Day

According to the IRS: Individual taxpayers spent a total of 897 million hours in FY 2022 just on record-keeping. This is in addition to the 1.15 billion hours spent on tax preparation of individual returns. Business entities spent about 1.14 billion hours and $48.3 billion on tax preparation in FY 2022.

Tax season causes stress all year long. I’ll never forget how when my dad was 90 years old and in hospice care he told me to be sure and file his income tax return. He seemed very concerned.

The truth is that every penny of his income was reported to the IRS and he should not have had to have a tax return prepared at all.

As a business owner I pay $$$$ to have my taxes prepared. I can do them myself but found it too stressful and time consuming.

I especially remember warm sunny April weekends where I had to stay inside and work on my taxes.

I have to keep a lot of records but these days most of my record keeping is automated and I keep records as I go. It takes me about 3 hours to gather my information for the tax preparer. I mostly understand my taxes which helps me make decisions about business expenses.

I do my best to not over pay when I pay quarterly taxes because I don’t want to rely on the IRS to send me a refund. If I am due a refund I roll it over to pay first quarter taxes which are also due on April 15th.

Happy Tax Day!

My property tax walk

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. Every spring I walk to 90 Plato blvd to drop off my payment for the first half of our Ramsey County Property taxes*. Yes, I am well aware that I can pay them online and that is usually how I pay the second half.

I walk over the high bridge and down the hill to Plato and drop off the payment and then walk along plato to Wabasha street and then over the Wabasha street bridge to Kellogg Blvd. and then to West 7th and then home again. It is a lovely walk on a spring day and it is a reminder to me that I am privileged to have the time and energy to make the 3 mile walk and am fortunate to have the resources to pay those exorbitant and ever rising property taxes.

I took my property tax walk yesterday. I enjoyed the views of the river along the way.

View from the river bluff
View of downtown from the top of the Smith Ave.High Bridge

*If you live in Minnesota your property taxes are not due until May 15, 2024.

Got Lead Based Paint?

I write some version of this every year. Our housing stock in St. Paul is old. Some folks consider houses built in the 1950’s old, but in St. Paul they are newish. 43% of the houses in St. Paul were built before 1939.

Any house that was built before 1978 could have lead-based paint in it. Since about 80% of the houses in St. Paul were built before 1978 it is safe to assume unless proven otherwise most St. Paul houses have lead-based paint in them.

Lead is harmful to human beings, especially to children and Federal law requires that persons buying or renting a home that was built before 1978 receive a disclosure that states that the home could have lead-based paint in it. Homebuyers can have the paint tested for lead but they almost never do.

Buyers are given a pamphlet about how to protect their families from lead-based paint. 

Washing hands and covering chipped or peeling paint is recommended. Having paint tested before removing it is also recommended.

One of my clients had a child who had an elevated level of lead in his system. Lead was found in the finish on an old built-in buffet in a home built in the late 1930s.

We are in a strong seller’s market and In multiple offer situations, sellers are likely to reject the offer in which the buyer plans to have the paint tested for lead.

Unless the homeowner has test results that prove there is no lead-based paint in the home or the home was built after 1978 please assume that there is lead-based paint and take appropriate precautions.

Epa lead-based paint
From the EPA

Lead From Paint, Dust, and Soil Can Be Dangerous If Not Managed Properly

FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.

FACT: Even children that seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.

FACT: People can get lead in their bodies by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips with lead in them.

FACT: People have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.

FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.

Also, consider that if the exterior of a home is or was wood and it has been scraped and painted there could be lead in the soil, and before unleaded gasoline became the norm there was lead in our gas tanks too and some of it ended up in the air and sold. There is more but I think this is enough for now.

Information about lead-based paint testing

Also, get healthy home information from the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Due diligence for condo buyers

Condo - kitchen
Kitchen in a small condo

If you buy a townhouse or condo in Minnesota there is a ten day rescission period. That means you have ten days to read the condo documents including rules, bi-laws and financials. Some condo associations will even share meeting minutes from home owner association (HOA) meetings.

A buyer can cancel the purchase with no penalty if there is something in the HOA documents that isn’t acceptable. Over the years I have had a few buyers cancel a condo purchase because of rules like pet restrictions, rental restrictions and other restrictions on how the unit can be used.

Sometimes the HOA doesn’t have adequate reserves to cover maintenance or unforeseen repairs. Which means owners may receive large assessments to pay for repairs.

Maybe the HOA dues are just too high.

It is important to understand that it is the buyer who needs to read and understand HOA documents and that any questions should go directly to the HOA. Seller’s do not always have the facts and real estate agents should stay out of it. Everything is in writing from the association.

NEVER rely on what a real estate agent or a condo owner says when it comes to anything that the HOA controls. Go directly to the management company or designated member of the HOA board of directors. Get everything in writing.

Buyer’s agents and listing agents should refrain from answering questions or acting as a go between when the buyer is doing due diligence. Some real estate agents get too involved. Seller’s should always direct questions to the association.

Agents may assist their clients by providing phone numbers and email addresses or forwarding documents to the buyer but should not be answering questions for the association.