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

There are fewer protections for cash buyers

spare change

Paying cash for a house makes the whole process faster, easier, and less expensive.  Partly because there are fewer protections. An appraisal is not required and neither is any kind of an inspection. To be eligible for most types of financing a house has to be “livable”.

Mortgage lenders protect themselves and by extension the home buyer.

Having a complete home inspection is important. Cash buyers rarely have the property appraised but they could.

The financing addendum will usually give buyers an out if they can not get the loan to pay for the house. They get their earnest money returned. Cash buyers may end up having to forfeit their earnest money if something goes wrong and they can not close.

Cash buyers should make sure there is a title company involved in the purchase and buy title insurance. Working with an experienced real estate agent is recommended.

All cash sales are becoming more common and account for at least 25% of purchases.

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.

What is “senior housing”

There really is such a thing as “senior housing” it is usually housing for people who are over 55. In some cases people who are over 62 years of age. Senior housing can be assisted living but it usually isn’t a nursing home which is a room in a facility with skilled nursing services.

Sometimes I see the term “retirement home”, but not very often I think it is out of style now.

There are also “independent living” facilities for seniors that seem to include assisted living which is housing with services available for a price and apartments or condos in buildings for people over 55 or 62 with opportunities to socialize with other seniors.

I have had some experience working with seniors who have Alzheimer’s. They often can not live on their own. Eventually, they may forget how to use the stove. They may forget how to use the coffee maker and decide that they don’t need to take their prescription drugs and more or they may decide to go for a walk and be unable to find their way back home.

There is assisted living with memory care. It works for people who need a lot of supervision but who do not need skilled nursing care.

Where ever senior lives is senior housing because it is housing a senior. We tend to call old houses historic rather than senior to avoid confusion.  There is no rule or law that requires seniors to move. Aging in place is a great option. Not aging is ideal but not an option.

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

Those letters from Realtors and home buyers

You may have gotten a letter in the mail from a couple or a Realtor. The couple is looking for a home in your neighborhood. The Realtor has clients who are looking for a house in your neighborhood or a house like yours.

In most cases, this isn’t a scam. There are people looking for every type of house in every neighborhood. The Realtor is looking for listings as we all are. If your house goes on the market it will sell in a couple of days. There will be multiple offers too which is a good thing.

Every homeowner has a “sell score”.  The sell score is used by Realtors to determine if a homeowner is likely to sell soon. If you would like to know what your sell score is ask a local Realtor. I looked ours up. It was very high the last time I checked and now it is moderate.

My sell score

Properties with a Very High Sell Score (831+) represent the top 5% of properties most likely to sell and are 2.6 times more likely to sell than the average property.

There are times in people’s lives when they are more likely to buy or sell their primary residence. Older people are less likely to move than younger people. The housing market right now is unusual and unprecedented. I don’t have a lot of faith in the sell scores but if I were sending letters to homeowners I could use it as a guide.