October 15th is an important day

snow on grass
October 14th snowstorm

It seems strange calling it a snowstorm. Maybe we can just think of it as a reminder. It snowed yesterday.

Beginning Oct. 15 and running through April 15, utility companies must provide residential customers with payment plans if they can not pay their utility bills.

Low-income Minnesotans may also be eligible for energy assistance programs from the state, utilities or charities that offer discounted heat or other help during colder months.

For more information, the cold weather rule visit the Minnesota Utilities Commission Website.  . . and yes your utilities can be turned off for non-payment.

I usually turn off the water to my outdoor spigots in Mid-October and get the furnace tuned. Getting a flu shot is also a good idea.

One to buy and two to sell


What does “one to buy and two to sell” really mean?

I was contacted by a homeowner who wants to sell his primary residence. He bought the home before he was married. His wife travels often for business. He had assumed he could sell without his wife having to sign anything.

It doesn’t work that way. Once they got married both spouses have a legal claim to the property.

The good news is that it is not at all hard to sell real estate in Minnesota while traveling especially if you are working with someone like me. There are also ways to close without having to go to the closing.

Either spouse can buy real estate at any time without the other spouse assuming they are financially qualified without the spouse’s income. There are families where one spouse works outside the home and the other spouse works in the home and does not have an income.

If you are buying a house and your spouse is not contributing financially your spouse’s name will not be on the purchase agreement. When you close on the purchase and take the title joint tenants the property will belong equally to both spouses. If the buyer dies his/her spouse will inherit the property.

Also, see Marriage and homeownership

Inventory up or is it August?

Number of homes on the market

Real estate is somewhat seasonal. The chart above shows how many homes have been on the market in St. Paul each month for the last 17 months or so. You can see the downward trend of fewer homes on the market during the peaks and valleys.

We usually see the number of houses on the market start to rise in January and continue to rise throughout the year. Some of it has to do with buying habits. There are generally not as many home sales in the fall as there are in the spring.

Even though there are twice as many homes on the market now as there were last February there are still fewer homes on the market today than there were during the lowest point in most of the last ten years. It is still less than a two month supply but if you are a buyer your odds of bagging a house are better today than they have been at any time this year.

It is still a great time to sell as we are still in a strong sellers market.

This house isn’t in your price range

While working with a home buyer we found a home listed in his price range. The home was listed for an amount that the buyer could have afforded but, to beat out the other offers he would have had to go over his limit.

I see this all the time with houses that are “priced to sell”. Buyers who want to buy a home for less than $150,000 are hit the hardest as they end up competing against investors.

Those investors pay cash or put a significant amount down which make their offers more attractive than the first time home buyers FHA with less than 5% down.

The bargain priced houses that seem so affordable or too good to be true are often out of reach for first time home buyers.

Home prices have gone up and at a much faster rate than wages. This is good for home owners but not so great for people who would like to become home owners.


New home, new locks

When you buy a house there is no way of knowing who might have a key to the front door. Maybe the babysitter has one and the next door neighbor too.

Right after the closing is a great time to have the locks changed. Not only will the home be more secure but lock technology has changed. In general, locks are better and easier to use than they were in the 1940’s.

Also, consider smart locks with keyless and blue tooth options. Unlock doors with your phone or with a code. If you think you forgot to lock the door you can lock it from a remote location.

Locks are complicated. Do some research before you buy.

door lock

July real estate market

On average St. Paul home sellers got 100.7% of their asking price in July 2018 which is slightly more than the 99.9% average for the Twin Cities region. In the West 7th neighborhood of St. Paul the average was even higher at 101.2%.

Asking price Vs. sale price

When the average sale price is higher than the average listing price that generally means prices are going up. It looks like prices are going up the most in the Thomas Dale neighborhood where homeowners got almost 102% of their asking price on average.

Condo sellers got an average of slightly less than 100% of the asking price for their units with downtown St. Paul condos selling for 98.7% of the asking price.

Home buyers should not use these numbers as a guide when making an offer.

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