A bad rehab is worse than no rehab

I wrote this a few years ago but lately, I have been seeing some poorly “rehabbed’ houses. They will work out for home buyers for the short term but will be expensive to maintain in the long term.

Some houses are painted with all the trendy colors and staged just so but they have little insulation, bad wiring, old roofs, and ancient plumbing. The houses sometimes sell for top dollar and the people who buy them can not always afford all the repairs that will soon be needed.

Dear house flipper,

I think it is wonderful the way you bought up some old houses and fixed them all nice and pretty.  You painted each room with the most popular decorator colors and put fancy countertops and cute cabinet hardware in the kitchen.  You put those retro faucets in the bathroom and you have impeccable taste in floor tile and you made excellent hardware choices.

Shame on you for leaving the old rusty water heater in the basement and for not even having the old boiler serviced and inspected.

You know from experience that the young buyers are going to be attracted by the hardwood floors and the shiny new kitchen appliances.  They just don’t know any better but I do and so does their home inspector.

Please make sure that the house you flip has a decent roof, electrical system, plumbing, furnace and water heater.  I know from my own experience as a homeowner these items are not cheap but I also know they are </span>essential and a basic part of what makes a house a home. </span>



busy open houses

honey bee and milkweed – happy July!

A house that is for sale gets the most attention the first day and week it is on the market. If a house is priced right and by right I don’t mean underpriced it will sell with multiple offers in a weekend. with or without an open house.

If the house is listed as “coming soon” and there is an open house the day the house becomes an active listing the open house is likely to be well attended. That is part of the point of having a home for sale “coming soon”.

Do not judge a house by how many people attend the first open house. Try not to pay too much attention to what others who are attending the open house are saying.

If at all possible ask your REALTOR for a private showing instead of attending an open house. Often it is easier to look a house when it isn’t full of people.

I could write a whole post about the people who are not planning on buying a house who go through open houses. They include neighbors and mothers who wish their children would buy a house in the neighborhood.

The demand for houses in St. Paul remains strong and they do sell quickly. The inventory of homes on the market is at historic lows but slowly increasing.

Closure at the closing

In Minnesota, we close at the table.  Money is exchanged for keys and garage door openers and it often happens in a conference room with the sellers on one side of the table and the buyers on the other. There are other options for closings but they are not as fun.

Yesterday I attended a closing where first time home buyers bought a house from a couple who had owned the home for 43 years. They left the house immaculately clean and in good repair. They left a gift along with hoses, cleaning supplies, manuals, instructions, and warranties.

Buyers and sellers exchanged phone numbers and the sellers gave the buyers the names of nearby neighbors.

Even though the home buyers had to sign piles of papers promising to make payments on the 30-year mortgage and take care of the property it was a joyous occasion.

It was lovely to see one generation hand the keys to the next.


living room
Move in ready

A new home owner

Homeowner doing yard work
New homeowner

The picture was taken in 1963 a few months after my parents bought their first home. They used to plan their vacations so that they would spend one week, usually in June working around the house. Then they would take another week or two in August and we would go camping or go on a road trip.

You can’t see it in the picture but my dad is using a weed whip but it isn’t the kind that uses gas or electricity it is an old school weed whip with a serrated blade. Yes, there were weeds back in the 1960s and they were black and white.

What is a walkable neighborhood?

I have noticed that when my clients refer to walkability they don’t all mean the same thing. I have heard people define neighborhoods with few sidewalks as walkable because there is a park nearby.

If there is a grocery store two blocks away but it is on the other side of a freeway or road that does not have a safe pedestrian crossing.

Walkable neighborhoods have sidewalks and streets that can be crossed on foot. Walking has to be easy and practical. In a walkable neighborhood, it is easy to walk to nearby businesses, libraries, parks, and other amenities.

For me “nearby” is within a mile. Even in the winter, I am willing to walk a mile. I will walk further but I don’t always have time for that.

It is debatable if neighborhoods where cars do not stop at crosswalks or where electric scooter are allowed to ride on the sidewalk or where the sidewalks have huge cracks, heaves, snow and potholes are walkable.

If walkability is an important consideration when buying a home, don’t just look at how close the home is to businesses and amenities make sure that it is possible or even easy to walk to the businesses and amenities.

How much should you offer?

It is hard to know how much to offer when buying houses in St. Paul. Homes with multiple offers will sell for more than the asking price. There is a learning curve with each price range and neighborhood. A little house hunting brings most buyers up to speed on which homes are going to sell quickly at their current price.

When I looked at what percentage of the original list price home sellers got I found that for the last two years the median is 100%.

The data used to make the graph is from the NorthstarMLS which is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Graph of sale price
sale price as a percentage of the last asking price