Please leave some lights on

House for sale

I went to show some clients a house at 6:30 one evening last week. There wasn’t a for sale sign on the property which isn’t terribly unusual. None of the street lights in the area were on if there were any.

The house was pitch black but I could kind of make out the shape of a house. I used my trusty flashlight to verify the address and waited for my clients.

When they came I used my flashlight to light the way to the door. One of my clients held the light while I worked the combination. As soon as I got into the house I started turning on lights. Some rooms did not have over headlights. I would have gone out to my car to get more flashlights but my clients didn’t seem to like the house at all.

After the showing, and while I was locking up the house one of my clients stepped into a hole in the front lawn and twisted an ankle. There is no sidewalk or walkway in front of the house.

With the short days, it is hard for people who have full-time jobs to look at homes for sale during daylight hours. It is a good idea to leave a light on if your home is for sale.

Homeowners can put light on timers. Go one step further and use a timer that can be controlled via wifi, turn it on before showings and off when they are over for the day.

The wacky world of windows

windowsI have had home buyers have an inspection and ask to have all the windows replaced or ask for a significant amount off the asking price of one of my listings because they didn’t like the windows.

Most St. Paul homes are old and many have old windows. My house has windows from the 1800s. They go up and down and work just fine.  It is true that just about any problem with a window can be fixed by replacing the window, but there are also less expensive options that maybe even better.

Sometimes new storm windows are all that is needed and sometimes windows can be repaired at a fraction of the cost of having new windows installed. Other times it is a matter of caulking and making other repairs.

Installing new windows in an old house rarely pay for themselves in resale value and may pay for themselves in energy savings but it will take decades.

Some old houses have deteriorating window frames and trim that need repair or replacement that isn’t usually a standard part of window replacement.

Replacing a large old wooden window with an inexpensive vinyl window isn’t always an improvement but more of a short term solution. The window may fail and need to be replaced because it can not be repaired.

Home improvement companies will sometimes talk homeowners out of window repairs probably because they don’t make repairs.

Average doesn’t always apply

In the last couple of years home sale prices in St. Paul have been on average higher than asking or listing prices. This happens when prices are going up due to lack of supply.

Using these averages to decide how much to offer on a home that is for sale doesn’t work.

If the house is overpriced and has been on the market for awhile it may sell for less than the asking price. In most cases, if the home just came on the market and has other offers on it buyers will need to offer more than the asking price.

Graph of list vs sale price
List price Vs. Sale Price in St. Paul

The data used to make the graph is from the NorthstarMLS which is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.


Saving up for a downpayment

Experts generally agree that being able to put a little money aside or save it is important. There are people who earn above-average incomes but who have no money.

Skipping the fancy coffee is’t going to add up to enough savings for a down payment on a house, it is going to take more than that.

Knowing where your money is being spent can help. Often it is the smaller monthly expenses that really add up.

A cell phone bill here and a streaming service there and some magazine subscriptions and maybe a membership that rarely gets used.

Go through monthly expenses at least once a year and see if any of the bills can be lowered or eliminated. Look for free trials that ended up being monthly bills.

It is possible to make savings a monthly expense by using auto-pay to transfer money from checking to savings each month before it all gets spent. Based on the idea of paying yourself first.

The word budget sounds boring but it is easier than ever thanks to electronic banking. I like to categorize expenses so I can easily see how much is being spent on utilities or restaurants.

Cooking at home can save a lot of money. When my daughter was a starving graduate student she used to do most of her cooking for the week on Sunday afternoons because she didn’t always have time to cook.

Bringing lunch to work can be a significant saving over dining out each day.

Buying a house does not require a 20% downpayment but in most cases, homebuyers will need cash. For those who already own a home sometimes things break.

People who want to buy a house in 2021 should start saving today.

what is wrong with that house?

Lately, we have been seeing houses go off the market because the seller accepted an offer but the house goes back on the market a short time later. It happens and it isn’t always about the house. Sometimes the buyers change their minds and we are seeing more of that these days.

Homebuyers compete for houses and have to make decisions quickly because houses do not stay on the market long. It is easy to get swept up in the process and sometimes the drama. Once buyers have a chance to think about it or look the property over again they regret making that over the asking price offer.

The house ultimately ends up back on the market and sometimes it will go on and off more than once before the offer sticks.

Sometimes offers do fall through because of the house and sometimes they fall through because of the buyer and sometimes it is a combination of the two. Do not reject a house because it had an offer on it that fell through. At least give it a look.



A bad rehab is worse than no rehab

I wrote this a few years ago but lately, I have been seeing some poorly “rehabbed’ houses. They will work out for home buyers for the short term but will be expensive to maintain in the long term.

Some houses are painted with all the trendy colors and staged just so but they have little insulation, bad wiring, old roofs, and ancient plumbing. The houses sometimes sell for top dollar and the people who buy them can not always afford all the repairs that will soon be needed.

Dear house flipper,

I think it is wonderful the way you bought up some old houses and fixed them all nice and pretty.  You painted each room with the most popular decorator colors and put fancy countertops and cute cabinet hardware in the kitchen.  You put those retro faucets in the bathroom and you have impeccable taste in floor tile and you made excellent hardware choices.

Shame on you for leaving the old rusty water heater in the basement and for not even having the old boiler serviced and inspected.

You know from experience that the young buyers are going to be attracted by the hardwood floors and the shiny new kitchen appliances.  They just don’t know any better but I do and so does their home inspector.

Please make sure that the house you flip has a decent roof, electrical system, plumbing, furnace and water heater.  I know from my own experience as a homeowner these items are not cheap but I also know they are </span>essential and a basic part of what makes a house a home. </span>