You found a house on the internet

porchFor the last 25 years or so people have been able to search the internet and find houses that are for sale. There are people who believe that because of this real estate agents are no longer needed.

Finding a house that is for sale is just one step in the home-buying process. It is the easiest step because in most cases all a buyer has to do is search the internet to find a home for sale.

Most of the houses were put on the internet by real estate agents.

When I want to help a buyer find a house I search the MLS (multiple listing service) through the internet.

In most cases, after a potential home buyer finds a house on the internet they want to see it in person. If they decide they want to buy it they need to figure out how much to offer. There also need to decide on the rest of the terms that will go into their offer.

The offer needs to be written. We call that a purchase agreement. The agreement could be drawn up on almost any piece of paper but usually, that won’t be enough space for all of the details.

People who have purchased real estate in the past have an easier time of it but the laws and rules changed often. No two properties are the same and each homeowner and buyer are unique too. I have helped hundreds of people buy and sell real estate and it is a little different each time. That is what keeps it all interesting.

Real estate agents also help people get ready so that if they do find that perfect house that they want to buy they can buy it.

Sevice has changed

Turret collage
Turrets

The meaning of the word service has changed. It used to be all about helping clients and responding to client or customer needs.

I don’t believe that giving clients a questionnaire prior to meeting with them is a service. They do that before medical appointments so the doctor can set the tone and show how little they care about patients as humans.

I think that asking questions that are tailored to the situation is a much better use of my client’s time. Asking each question once should suffice.

I never ask anyone to download an app onto their phone so that they can work with me. For people who want to work with an app, I can make that happen but it isn’t required.

Customer satisfaction surveys are crap. Many businesses state that they are performing a great service when they ask us to fill out a satisfaction survey. The surveys often miss the point or fail to allow us to highlight our extreme dissatisfaction, or are so ridiculously long that I feel as though people should be paid for their time.

There are aspects of customer service that can be automated, like voice mail and autoresponders for email. They both help small companies like mine. I can not always answer the phone or an email immediately but it doesn’t take me long to get back to the people who contact me.

Sometimes I think that businesses believe that they will appear to be more professional if they use a lot of forms and processes. Often when people call with a question the very first thing they get is a series of questions. The processes create unnecessary friction that makes it harder for people to use a service or buy a product.

Nothing says I don’t care about you or have any empathy for your situation like a generic questionnaire. I think that is why doctors’ offices use them so much.

Customer service isn’t about putting people on hold and letting them know that their call may be recorded for quality purposes.

I don’t have any generic clients. Each one is unique and so is each property that I represent or sell.  You can call or write and I’ll do my best to provide professional help with your real estate needs.

The heating bill cometh

St. Paul

Just a heads up. Natural gas prices have quadrupled in the last two years.  I just got our utility bill for December. I just want to say “ouch”. The prices are up because demand is high, partly because natural gas is being exported. The natural gas market is global. Low production, sanctions, and war drive prices up.

Natural gas is literally sold to the highest bidder.

Going forward we may need to change to solar-powered heat pumps to heat our homes and businesses. For now setting the thermostat lower, wearing extra layers, and perhaps a part-time job will get us through the heating season.

It might also be fun to research heating from solar-powered heat pumps.

For those who qualify there is an energy assistance program through the Minnesota Department of Commerce.  There is also a federal program, Low Income Energy Assistance Program.

Let’s not forget the Minnesota cold weather rule: Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule (CWR) is a state law that protects residential utility customers from having electric or natural gas service shut off between October 1 and April 30. To protect your service from disconnection you must make and keep a payment plan that you and your utility agree on. The utility must offer a payment plan that is reasonable for your household’s financial circumstances. You can set up a CWR payment plan at any time during the CWR season.

 

What is an SRES?

What is SRES? Thanks for asking. SRES stands for Senior Real Estate Specialist. The specialist doesn’t have to be a senior but does have to specialize in real estate for seniors.

It is all actually quite interesting because there really isn’t such a thing as Senior real estate. Older houses are sometimes called “Historic” but never “senior”

There is such a thing as senior housing. Usually, it is housing that people have to be 55 or older to buy or rent. With some housing, a person has to be 62 or better to buy or rent.

The Senior Specialist Designation is through the National Association of Realtors. It is an area of study. Once the course is taken as I recall there is a test.

I have had many clients over the years who are 70 or older. I think my oldest client was in her early 90’s.  There is no one size fits all housing solution for people who are over 55. It mostly depends upon what kind of a lifestyle the person has or wants.

Health and money weigh into the equation too.  I have worked with a few people who are blind or almost blind. Some seniors like to jog and others don’t want a house where there are stairs to climb.

Sometimes families need help with a house that they inherited from a loved one. I have experience with that both as a family member and as a Realtor.

Some of my older clients have downsized while others have purchased larger homes. Sometimes it takes a larger house to meet the needs of a few generations.

Listening is the most important skill for working with seniors. It is best not to make any assumptions about the size, and style of a house a person might want.

I just renewed my SRES membership for another year. Feel free to call or write with questions. Boardman Realty is woman-owned and operated and I suppose technically we are senior citizens too.

Downsizing can be a challenge but we have done that ourselves and have helped family members and clients do the same. In fact sometimes I think about writing a book on how to pack up a life and move away.

Certificate SRES

 

You can do it – retire mortgage free

In 2020 according to Zillow, 37% of Americans own their homes free and clear. The number went up by 5.5% after the great recession. In 2017 41% of baby boomers owned their homes free and clear. For seventy-year-olds, an estimated 68% are mortgage-free, in 2022 that number grew to 70%.

I have read tons of advice over the years that suggests paying off a mortgage isn’t a good idea. It makes sense that if paying off a mortgage means using up savings and retirement accounts it probably isn’t a good idea. Other debts should be paid off first, especially credit card debt.

Owning a home free and clear means lower housing costs during retirement. Those property taxes are killer but still lower than renting or paying taxes and making mortgage payments.

It might even be possible to retire without having saved up a million dollars by owning a modest home that is paid for and no debt.

There are some psychological benefits of not having to make house payments. It can be liberating. Something to consider when planning for retirement.

You can make your house smarter

queen anne house
Queen anne

My house was built in the mid-1800s.  In fact, it was built without central heating, electricity, central air conditioning, or plumbing. The house has all of that today and more.

It was built before the modern washer, dryer, refrigerator, or dishwasher were invented.  I wouldn’t even want to guess how many different refrigerators were used in my old house over the decades.

They didn’t even have wifi in the 1800s but we have it today. We had cable for a time and a landline-type phone too. I wish we still had the old TV antenna but we make do with a digital antenna.

We have added some smart technology over the years. There are some smart electrical outlets and light bulbs too.

I have one of those smart thermostats that I can control with an app or by voice the Amazon Echo. I don’t have to be at home to know what the temperature is in my house or to change the temperature.

There is a camera in my office that I can access from anywhere and I can be alerted if there is motion in the room.

I am interested in upgrading some of the locks to smart locks. There are an almost overwhelming number of choices. I can see the benefits of moisture detectors too.

As we add smart devices to our homes those devices will become obsolete and will need to be replaced with newer devices or some other kind of technology altogether. It wasn’t all that long ago that central vacuums and built-in speakers were all the rage.

You don’t have to buy a new house to have smart home technology, which is a good thing because not many new houses are being built and those that are being built are very expensive and the houses in St. Paul are very old.

 

Internet of things