Storage container season begins today

storage containersI like to think of it as the cycle of consumerism. People buy “stuff’ to give as gifts during the holidays. We all get gifts. Some will sit in a drawer for the rest of our lives.

If you go to a big box store today like Target, you will see displays of storage containers. Some are red or green or both and those are for Christmas decorations. There are clear plastic tubs and a large assortment of baskets and boxes.

Don’t buy the storage containers. Sure there are a few things we need to store like holiday decorations and seasonal clothing.

Rethink what goes into the containers and why. Most of us have too much stuff which is why I think of storage containers as the enemy. I have a tall stack of empty storage containers in my basement. They were all full at one point. I have no memory of what was in them.

I gave some of the stuff away and donated some to charity. Some of it was recycled and some of it ended up in the trash.  I do enjoy looking at the empty containers.

Resist the temptation to buy storage containers for items that you do not want or need. Get rid of the excess stuff that sits in storage. Make some space for nothing or for something that matters.

Cash buyers do not wait until spring to buy

January can be the perfect time to put a home on the market. We have sold more homes to cash buyers in January than in any other month. Home buyers who plan on getting a home loan often wait until after they get an income tax refund before they buy a house. That is why March 15th is considered an ideal time to put a house on the market.

Quick sales happen all year long and so do cash sales. Putting your home on the market in January can lead to a higher sale price, a shorter time on the market, and a cash offer.

Money is money but with a cash offer, there is no appraisal. There are fewer steps that the buyer and sellers have to go through. There is no waiting for underwriting approval.

loft style condo - kitchen
Loft style condo


About online reviews

Online reviews of real estate agents, doctors, and books are an excellent idea. Unfortunately, they are not very helpful. Most if not all real estate agents have five-star ratings. Often the questions asked on the surveys don’t hit on anything that matters. Often it is only satisfied customers who are offered a survey.

Sure the doctor was on time and he gets a 5 for that but he is also a bully and his “charts” contain inaccurate information. That kind of information is valuable to people who are looking for a doctor. Sure being on time is important too but doctors can do things or not do things that cause a lot more harm than keeping patients waiting.

I have worked with hundreds of real estate clients over the years and I can tell you that no two clients are the same and neither are any two properties. First-time home buyers who have only had experience with one agent may not even notice that their agent did not do a good job. They don’t understand that for agents being on time and answering the phone is a small part of what is important.

A better way to vet an agent is to ask friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members for recommendations, especially those who have recently worked with a real estate agent.

Rent free and mortgage free retirement

Mortgage lenders don’t like this idea and neither do landlords. There are some huge advantages in owning a home free and clear in retirement. In St. Paul the property taxes are high but property tax refunds are available through the State of Minnesota for low-income property owners.

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%.

Over the years, I have read tons of advice suggesting 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 a million dollars by owning a modest home that is paid for and no debt.

It isn’t possible to save up enough for long-term care. To get help paying for care seniors will need to spend all of their savings. In most cases, homeowners do not have to sell their houses to pay for care as long as they live in the house.

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

Would the contents of your home fit in a dumpster or two?

blue storage inWatching a neighbor fill a few 20-yard dumpsters with stuff from his house is a reminder to me that I still have too much stuff. A 20-yard dumpster holds about 3 tons or at least 130 large trash bags.

I don’t think my stuff would fill a 20-yard dumpster, yet I definitely have a few things that can be tossed, recycled, or donated.

The best way to get rid of the excess is by choosing one category or room at a time and sorting through it. I like to put things in two piles. Keep or discard.

For people who are planning on downsizing in the next year or two, it is best to get started on getting rid of the excess now so that it doesn’t all end up in a landfill.

What happens to a house when the occupant has Alzheimer’s

wooden houses

Alzheimer’s disease can be hard on a house. The owner may forget to clean the kitchen and pay the bills. Can you imagine remembering to pay your property taxes when you don’t always remember who you are?

In the US some 27% of people who are over 60 live alone. age is the biggest known risk factor for dementia. The majority of people with dementia are over the age of 65, and the risk of this condition increases as you get older, and the population is aging.

It is easy to forget to turn off the burner on the stove. Operating a microwave oven isn’t always intuitive and for people with dementia it can be very difficult.

I don’t have any answers or solutions on how to keep people with dementia safe when they are alone in their own homes. We all need to keep pay attention to aging family members and help our neighbors when we can.

In St. Paul, the fire department has a team that can respond to non-emergency crises. They can be reached at 651-228-6216 on weekdays between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM. I recently met the head of the unit Deputy Chief Dwayne Gibbs.

There is also the House Calls program through Ramsey County. 651-266-1290.

There are other services. I am in the process of working with a couple of government agencies and the Saint Paul Areas Association of Realtors to come up with a list of services specifically for elderly homeowners in crisis.