Is there mold in the house?

green house
House on Michigan Street – West 7th neighborhood

Mold is everywhere and it is more complicated than you might think. Most molds are not harmful to humans but all molds have the potential to be harmful to humans, or harmful to some humans.

There is no mold standard. With radon and other substances, there are thresholds and guidelines for how much is too much.

Mold can be removed from a home by removing moldy items and stopping moisture from getting in and or cleaning up the affected area. I am a fan of using chlorine bleach if possible.

Damp basements are common this time of year. I can usually tell by the smell if a basement is moldy.

There probably isn’t such a thing as a mold free house.

What about mold testing?

“Many people want to test their home for mold. In most situations, MDH does not recommend mold testing. There are several reasons for this:

Proper mold testing is expensive – If you can see or smell mold in your home, you know you have a mold problem. There are several ways to test for mold, and each test has different advantages. In order to get a good idea of a mold problem, several types of test are needed. It is usually better to use the money you would spend on testing to solve the moisture issues and clean up the mold.” [Minnesota Department of Health]

One of the best sources of information about mold and other sources of indoor air pollution is the Minnesota Department of Health.  Which is where I send home buyers who have questions. I am not qualified to say what is safe and what isn’t and I am not qualified to identify mold types.

Should you buy a house with mold in it?  Can you buy a mold free house?

Home turns into death trap

The use of the word “death trap” is probably overly dramatic but I see the same drama play out over and over again. People live in a home for decades. Children are raised in the home and maybe grandchildren visit.

The home goes on the market and the owner accepts an inspection contingent offer. The buyers have the inspection and many defects and safety hazards are found. The buyers have a list of repairs.

Don’t take it personally. Safety standards and local building codes are constantly changing. What may have been safe a decade ago isn’t considered safe today.

Your home might not meet today’s more rigorous safety standards. Some of the rules were made after someone died. The reason carbon monoxide detectors are required is that people in Minnesota have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their home as they slept.

Home buyers should not panic if the inspector finds some issues and don’t be afraid to ask for reasonable repairs. Consider the differences between upgrades, repairs and maintenance items.  It is appropriate to ask for a repair if something is broken or if it leaks. It is appropriate to ask for maintenance items like a boiler tune-up or a chimney cleaning.

Houses need roofs and working heating plants and water heaters too and sometimes it is appropriate to have them repaired or replaced at the owner’s expense.

Home buyers should take care with how they word their repair requests.  Keep them polite and specific. Keep judgments and opinions to yourself. Do not assume that the homeowner was aware of the deficiencies or that they were trying to hide something.

Sometimes after inspection, the right decision is to walk away. There are houses that need too much work for the average home buyer and are a better fit for someone who wants to rehab a house.

Boardman Realty recommends that all home buyers get a complete home inspection.

Also, see How to find Truth in housing reports

Getting a home inspection

Dear house flipper

Buyers get ready to compete


The spring real estate market is competitive. It isn’t at all unusual for a home to get offers the day it comes on the market or even before. Buyers who must buy in April need to be able to compete with other home buyers and win.

Here are a few ways to beat the competition:

  1. Don’t wait for an open house, make an appointment and see the home as soon as it comes on the market.
  2. Be willing to look at houses before the weekend. look on your lunch hour or in the evening or leave work early. Get to the house first.
  3. Have an up-to-date pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender.
  4. work with a lender who is responsive.
  5. Work with a real estate agent who has experience and who is responsive.
  6. Decide ahead of time what your downpayment will be.
  7. Remember that if you are asking the seller to pay your closing costs that comes off of their bottom line. I have watched many buyers lose out by asking the seller to pay buyer closing costs.
  8. Be ready to move. An offer with a closing date months in the future might not be what the sellers are looking for.
  9. Be flexible on your closing date.
  10. Low ball offers on houses that were just listed today almost never work out.
  11. Always keep in mind that the current market is not fair or balanced but it is a seller’s market.

Loosing out on a house is not at all unusual. Learn from it and move on to the next opportunity.

One common mistake is to offer less as a starting point. In a multiple offer situation, the seller chooses the highest and best offer rather than negotiating with lower offers. Never assume that if you offer X then the seller will counter with Y.  Always be ready for the unexpected when dealing with people involved in buying or selling real estate.

Also, be aware of the fact that the special house you just found is probably going to be found by a zillion another home buyers. You won’t be the only interested buyer.

It is easier said than done but it is important to not get emotionally involved with the real estate that you are bidding on.

There is always another house for sale and who knows the one you end up with could be better than the one you lost out on.

Also, see:


Finding a bargain

Closing costs

Love letters from buyers and fair housing

I don’t make the rules but I follow them and occasionally I write about them too.

We have had a few listings that have gotten multiple offers. Some of the buyers making an offer send ‘love letters” along with the offer. The letters say how much the buyers loved the house and how they plan to fill it with children. Buyers include pictures of themselves and of their children.

They also include information about the buyers marital and familial status. Sometimes the letter will mention a local church or parish school that the family plans to attend.

There isn’t any rule against buyers writing letters to the seller but I always advise my sellers to ignore the letter until after they have chosen an offer. It is against the law to favor one offer over another based on the race, religion or familial status of the offerer.

If the seller accepts the offer because they like the buyers the best and it wasn’t the best offer that could lead to a fair housing complaint. Sometimes the offers are similar but one offer has a letter with it. It is tempting to use the letter as a tie breaker but I strongly advise my clients against that.

Sometimes home sellers will tell me they really want to sell their house to a family with children. I have to explain to them that it doesn’t work that way and I can not help them. I can not advertise to families with children or any other demographic.

It is important to look at selling a home as a business transaction and to look at the terms in the offers and what kind of financing the buyers are using.

Sellers view love letters with caution

Take advantage of lower interest rates

I didn’t want to publish this on April fools day because I was afraid that people would not take it seriously. Here is a look at mortgage interest rates:

By historical standards none of the rates on the chart below are high but rates were higher and have gone down making buying a home just a little more affordable.

Mortgage Rates

Supply of homes for sale snap shot

The snapshot is for St. Paul. Pending listings are the homes that are sold but not closed. Most of them will close. Compare that number with the number of new listings and it is easy to see why the number of homes on the market in St. Paul is small and currently shrinking.

Subtract the canceled and expired listings and the number of homes for sale gets smaller. There are around 335 homes for sale in St. Paul right now. This is a seller’s market. Homes are selling quickly. In a few days, I’ll have March home sale numbers for St. Paul.


MLS dash board
MLS dashboard

Home buyers looking for professional help. . . find my contact information to the right.