Down payment assistance & the homeownership gap

I just read up on a proposal for a downpayment assistance program that is supposed to help close the homeownership gap. I’ll give an update once the program is approved.

queen anne house
Queen Anne

Minnesota’s black homeownership rate peaked in the 1950s at almost 47% and is currently 25.3% as compared with whites who have a homeownership rate of 77%. The homeownership gap in Minnesota is among the highest in the country.

Over the years I have worked with a few buyers who were eligible for and who used downpayment assistance programs to buy a house. Almost all of those buyers were white and a few of them were not first-time homebuyers but they were people who had previously owned homes.

Downpayment assistance is a great resource for people who want to buy a house but who do not have the resources to make the downpayment which is why I have the link to downpayment resources in the right sidebar on this site.  I always ask first-time homebuyers if they have heard of the programs and I encourage them to explore their options and ask their lender for assistance.

There is proposed legislation in Minnesota for down payment assistance to help “first-generation” home buyers.

The intent is to narrow the racial homeownership gap in Minnesota.

A first-generation home buyer is defined as:

• A buyer who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years, and

• A buyer whose parent or legal guardian does not or did not at the time of their death own a home.

Real estate agents do not approve or disapprove home loans. Real estate agents do discourage home sellers from accepting certain types of financing because they believe it to be riskier. I strongly encourage homeowners to talk to familiarize themselves with various loan programs.

Recently the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors apologized for its role in housing discrimination. The National Association of Realtors also apologized. Realtors were complicit and helped enforce racial-based deed restrictions. We also helped segregate neighborhoods.

1924 COE
Realtor Code of ethics

A wild and crazy election week

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. On Tuesday there was a primary election and I am an election judge in Ramsey county. That means I get to the polling place at 5:30 in the morning and stay until sometime between 8:30 PM and 9:00 PM.

I get to see my neighbors. I know every street in the precinct, which comes in handy because I know right away when someone is in the wrong place. Generally where people vote is close to home. We had a few Hennepin county voters and some folks who were in the right county but were miles away from their precinct.

Voting usually puts a smile on people’s faces. People who were born in 2004 are now old enough to vote if they turn 18 by election day.

In Minnesota, people can register at the polls. My job was to help them register, which is the best job there is for an election judge.

Elections are run on a local level. If you are looking for a good time and if you have the time to find out how you can sign up to be an election judge. If you need to register to vote you can find out how to do that before the next election which will be held on November 8, 2022.

2022 Part l ends today

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. Normally I would take this opportunity on July 1st to say something about how we don’t celebrate July 4th in St. Paul,  but today is too important for that because it is the last day of the first half of 2022. Tomorrow we start the second half.

Today is a good day to take stock. The year is half over. Are we going to make it? What will happen if we don’t achieve our goals?

Today also marks the beginning of the third quarter of 2022. Yes, that is correct Q3, and it is the first day of a new month.

I plan on doing something special to celebrate the end of 2022 part 1 and the beginning of part ll but at the moment I have no idea what that might look like.

My festive July planter


Appointment Whack-a-mole

Sometimes home buyers want to see several houses. Making the appointments can be challenging for Realtors. There isn’t any point in making appointments several days ahead of time because more often than not the sellers will accept an offer before the showing and cancel that appointment.

The best way to do it is to make appointments one or two days ahead of time. A few of those appointments will be canceled. Sometimes it helps to make twice as many appointments and cancel them as houses sell. Sometimes houses come on the market to fill the appointment holes.

Most homebuyers do not understand how fierce the competition is among homebuyers. Once they lose out on a few houses or have some offers rejected they start to get it and learn to be a bit more strategic.

I have worked in real estate for 20 years and this spring has been the hardest for homebuyers in the metro area. That isn’t to say that the last few years have been easy, they have not. The housing market is very stressful for people who are looking for housing and for the real estate agents who are trying to help them.

Higher interest rates are not enough to discourage home buyers and even if they do get discouraged there are plenty of cash buyers who are ready to take advantage of the situation.


Relocating to the Twin Cities?

spring beauties
Spring beauty

There are a few things people who are relocating should understand. First of all welcome to the Twin Cities.

The buying and selling season here reaches a kind of peak in April. That means that the prices are higher and there is a lot of competition as many buyers compete to buy a few houses. It isn’t at all unusual for a house to get several offers the first day it is on the market.

The best strategy is to see houses starting Thursday afternoon until Friday evening because there are more houses on the market and there are fewer people looking at them during the day.

The worst times to look at houses are on the weekend. There are more people looking on the weekend and some homeowners are not allowing overlapping showings. Sometimes the house is fully booked with appointments before it is available for showings. There are some open houses but not many as compared with how many houses are for sale, also not many.

Thursdays and Fridays are popular days to list houses, with offers due by Sunday.

If you find that special house that is coming on the market and you are sure it is the one that you are going to buy keep in mind that there are at least 30 other people who have the same idea. It is best to look for houses that are priced below your maximum so that you can outbid the other buyers.

Homebuyers who are relocating should also make sure they are pre-approved for a mortgage or have proof of funds if paying cash. It is a good idea to choose a Realtor before arriving because the best agents take care of their clients first and may not be able to squeeze new clients in at the last minute.

Buyers need not be present to make an offer. Offers are made on electronic forms that can be signed electronically. It doesn’t matter if the buyer is in town or in another country. The offer is sent to the listing agent electronically and most negotiations happen vis email, phone call, or text messages.

Relocating is especially challenging this time of year but it is doable especially if you take my advice.

Maps are the perfect resource for house hunting.

Yesterday I found a cute little house for sale. The house was described as being within walking distance of Lake Phalen. I know the area well and I knew from the address that it would be more than a mile and a half walk. True that is walkable.

I walk at least that far most days and even though I live West of downtown St. Paul and on the same side of the river as downtown, I walk to Harriet Island which is 1.9 miles away if I walk through downtown and cross the river via Wabasha Street Bridge. It is 2 miles if I walk the Smith Avenue Bridge.

Walkable is a vague term. For most people  “walkable” is a half-mile or less. For some folks, walkable means a few blocks but I digress. There are a couple of coffee shops and restaurants that are a block away from my house. They would meet most people’s definition of walkable but Harriet island probably wouldn’t.

Use Google maps and look at where the house is. Use street view to see the house and what is near it. Sometimes a house is located near an attraction but it still isn’t walkable due to freeways and in some cases, a total lack of sidewalks and crosswalks.  Driving by the house is also a great way to check out the area but is more time-consuming and expensive than the internet.

There are other vague terms used to market homes for sale. Like “cute” or “Fabulous” or the ever-popular “charmer”.

Harriet Island
Harriet Island Regional Park