It is just advertising

There is a sign in the neighborhood with a picture of a real estate agent on it. It says that he is number one in the neighborhood. I didn’t recognize the name or the face even though I have lived in the neighborhood for 39 years.

I have no idea what number one means innumber 1 this context, so I did some research. I looked in the MLS and the agent has sold a few houses in the neighborhood but is fairly new and I can honestly say I have sold more houses in the neighborhood.

Misleading advertising is against a standard of practice in the Realtor Code of ethics. Yet the real estate industry is full of what I’ll call tricky advertising because if I call it misleading that will open a can of worms that could keep me busy for months.

Is claiming to be number one misleading? Being number one is vague and hard to prove or disprove which is why there are so many number one real estate agents. What are they number one in? Why aren’t there any number two agents?

When it comes to being number one we could count transactions or sales dollar volume.

The agent who sells the most homes usually has a higher number of canceled and expired listings too and is often slower to answer the phone and sometimes clients end up working with a low paid but efficient assistant instead of with the agent.

If you meet with a real estate agent who claims to be number one ask a lot of questions.

Our clients are always number one.

To wear a mask or not?

In addition to coping with the pandemic this past year, I have also had to make policies and safety guidelines for my company. We are required to be in compliance with theFace mask Minnesota Health Department guidelines if we want to stay in business. There are now pages and pages of rules.

Last Thursday the CDC stated that fully vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks indoors or outdoors except in certain situations. Every business I have visited since then is still requiring customers and employees to wear masks.

The governor of Minnesota lifted the mask mandate but the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis decided not to end the mandates.

In real estate, we have all sorts of rules and guidelines. There are still people who believe that the SARS virus is spread by touching doorknobs that have been infected so there is a lot of doorknob cleaning and sanitizing going on.

The CDC says that the virus is spread through airborne particles. I totally understand why people might not believe the CDC at this point.

For now, even though I am fully vaccinated I am following the rules that businesses have put in place. Most of the time I will need to wear a mask when indoors in public places. The number of people with Covid-19 in Ramsey county is still very high. Higher than last year at this time.

We will continue to wear masks when we go inside private homes. I prefer not to ask our clients if they have been vaccinated but usually, they volunteer their status when I let them know that I am fully vaccinated.

I do my best to keep up with local guidelines and regulations.

Riding through the woods

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. Last weekend I got on my bike and took a ride through Lilydale Regional Park. I never get tired of the trails through the woods or the eagles’s nests along pickerel lake. There are also herons, ducks, swans, turtles, and lots of beaver and songbirds.

Right now the woods are full of wild violets. I also found some marsh marigolds blooming and of course the bald eagles hanging out near their nests. They often get their pictures taken. The park is a photographer’s paradise and wonderful for biking, hiking, fishing, and picnics too.

The best times to ride through the woods are on weekdays in the early afternoon or late morning when there is less noise and traffic.

Bald Eagle
Marsh marigold

 

Online home searches in 2021

We have come a long way. When w bought our first home there wasn’t any way to search the internet and look at pictures of houses for sale. Today I can put in the address of

queen anne house
Queen anne

any home that is for sale and it will show up on a zillion websites in a few seconds.  The searches are free too because in most cases real estate agents are paying for them.

Homebuyers will notice that on the major sites they can find the name of the listing agent if they search for it but usually the links for asking questions, setting up a showing or for more information about the home go to the agent who is paying for the link.

On real estate company websites, the links go to the real estate company or to a particular agent from that company.

If I test my own listings I end up with agents who don’t know anything about the property and sometimes they don’t even work in the area. Sometimes no one responds to my inquiry.

Agents buy any zip code or area that they can. Real estate agents spend millions of dollars a year for leads and those leads come from homes for sale listed by other agents.

Real estate is cut-throat and competitive, especially now when there are more real estate agents than there are houses on the market. People who click on the link are likely to end up in someone’s drip email campaign and may experience a lot of “follow-up” and contact by phone and email.

For people who do not wish to become a lead choosing a real estate agent and asking that agent any questions about homes for sale is the way to do it. Your agent will work on your behalf for many months if needed and won’t charge you a dime, or send you spam or unwanted phone calls or text messages. Choose an agent with a lot of experience helping people buy and sell houses and choose someone who works in the area where you live or want to live.

When using the internet to search for houses that are for sale choose the site that you find the easiest to use. Ask your agent to set up some searches from the local MLS too.

Also see open houses

 

Not working from home

In the last few months, rush hour traffic has gone back to the way it was during the before time.  Last year at this time it seems like the streets were lined with cars, now the cars are gone.

I have talked with friends and family who are going back to the office and so far none of them really want to go back. One family member lucked out when his company was purchased by a company that is located out of state. He gets to stay employed and work from home.

There is a lot of traffic in the area in the evenings and on weekends too. People walking, driving, and riding on those little electric scooters.

It is easier for me to plan where I want to live than it is for others. I just need to live in an area where there are houses. I have been working out of a home office for 15 years and can work from almost anywhere if I have internet access.

I have to pay my own health insurance and I don’t get paid during vacations and there is no pay for sick days. That might seem like a bad thing but it is a trade-off. It would be nice to have benefits and freedom but that isn’t a thing.

It will be interesting to see if the pandemic has any kind of long-term impact on where people want to live.  I don’t have any advice on this except to say that buying a house is more of a longer-term commitment than most employers will make. I still live in the house that was close to jobs but I haven’t had any of those jobs for 20 years.

view of downtowns
View of St. Paul and Minneapolis from Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul

Is it a good time to rent?

In real estate, we are fond of saying; “Now is a good time to buy”, but there have been better times to buy like in 2009 for instance.  Even though interest rates are low prices are sky high and rising and there is a scarcity of homes for sale.

A couple of years ago it was actually cheaper to buy than to rent. I have some clients who took advantage of that and are now homeowners.

Right now the vacancy rate in St. Paul for rentals is somewhere between 5.5 and 6%, which is up from less than 3% two years ago. Renting might also be a better option for people who really want to move this year.

As of 2019 about 51% of St. Paulites were renting.

Bleeding heart