There is staging and there is staging

chairI believe that houses should be staged before they go on the market. I am finding that “staging” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. To me, it starts with cleaning decluttering, and, removing excess stuff as needed.

It means taking the magnets off the front of the fridge and I really encourage people to pack up the Hummel collection and the snow babies too. Sometimes rooms can be staged by rearranging the furniture, removing a piece or two, and adding fresh flowers.

I like to add green plants too but it is important to not overdo it. Plants take up space and they can make the home look cluttered.

Some houses need fresh paint. Choose neutral colors and keep it light. Do not paint every room’s walls and ceiling the same color. There isn’t any one color that everyone likes which is why neutrals work the best.

I often end up recommending that throw rugs be removed. It really depends on how many rugs and where they are. The whole idea is to de-personalize the home a bit so that buyers can imagine it as their own.

Loading a house up with rented furniture usually isn’t necessary but if the homeowners want to go that route I ask them to pay the rental fees.

All too often I see “staged” homes that have too much in them. It is as if every square inch of the place needs to look like it has a special purpose. I have seen some bad staging over the years.

Sometimes less is more as it allows the buyers to imagine the house with their own furnishings.

Mortgage applications hit a 27 year low

coinsMortgage interest rates are over 7%. Sure we have seen rates higher but home prices have also hit an all-time high.

“Mortgage applications declined to the lowest level since December 1996, despite a drop in mortgage rates. Both purchase and refinance applications fell, with the purchase index hitting a 28-year low, as prospective buyers remain on the sidelines due to low housing inventory and elevated mortgage rates,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “The 30-year fixed mortgage rate decreased to 7.21 percent last week, but rates remained more than a full percentage point higher than a year ago, despite mixed data on the health of the economy and signs of a cooling job market. The refinance index dropped to its lowest level since January 2023, driven by a 6 percent decline in conventional refinances.”
The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 30.0 percent of total applications from 30.1 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 6.7 percent of total applications.
The FHA share of total applications increased to 13.7 percent from 13.2 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 11.3 percent from 11.6 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications increased to 0.6 percent from 0.4 percent the week prior. [Mortgage Bankers Association]
Locally we are not seeing a slowdown in home purchases but homeowners are less likely to want to sell.

New locks for you new home

For a better night’s sleep change the locks after you close on your new home. 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 1940s.

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 and there are more options than ever. Do some research before you buy.

door lock

If you live in a house in St. Paul assume the paint is lead based

I tell my clients to assume the paint in any old house in St. Paul is lead-based. Most of the houses were built during the time when lead-based paint was being used.  It was still being used in the late 70s.  Lead-based paint goes way back to colonial times in America and was most used in the mid-1920s. It is most often found on window trim and woodwork.

It can be found on old boilers and on those wonderful built-ins found in craftsman-style homes.  Most contractors test the paint for lead before replacing or repairing doors or windows. To learn more about lead-based paint and how it is especially harmful to children.

Lead-based paint that is covered or that isn’t chipping or peeling may not be hazardous.  When buying a house buyers have the option of having a lead-based paint inspection so that they know in advance if they will have to do any remediation.

Older houses and lead based paint
lead-based paint in older houses

Understand the risks of giving the seller a deadline



A deadline on an offer to buy a house can backfire if there is more than one offer and if the deadline is 24 hours or less.

Sometimes buyers want to put a deadline on an offer to buy a house thinking they will get a faster response from the seller. Sellers may not be available or in the case of an estate, there may be four or five sellers.

The listing agent may be at parent-teacher conferences or a child soccer match. There could be a death in the seller’s family.

Buyers who put short deadlines in offers should understand that they risk losing the opportunity to buy a house. We are still in a seller’s market.

When offers come in over the weekend I have had seller’s agents tell me that “we always wait until Monday to accept an offer” and some say that it is always best to deal with the offers on Sunday night.

Great offers tend to get faster responses than not-so-great offers. If the house just came on the market and the offer is for less than the asking price chances are sellers are not going to accept it right away and rather than negotiating, they will wait a few days for a better offer.

During the last buyers’ market, things were very different. Buyers had the upper hand. For the last few years, a strong seller’s market has given the sellers the upper hand.

As a general rule responses of any kind do not happen during the day. They happen between 8:30 PM and 1:00 AM.

Home buyers can withdraw their offer while waiting for sellers to respond.

Once a seller does accept the offer it is important to keep things moving along because until the contract is signed and executed it is easy for sellers to accept another offer.

Sometimes patience pays off and the buyer who is willing to wait a few days may end up being the buyer who gets to buy the house.

Every situation is unique. Buyers should ask their agent for advice on how long to wait for a response on an offer from the seller.

Open houses are optional

open houseOpen houses have become somewhat controversial among Realtors®. There are safety concerns for those who do open houses. Open houses are not needed to sell a house. In fact, most houses that are for sale will never have an open house.

Sometimes homeowners do not want open houses but they believe they are needed to sell the house. Most homebuyers find their next home on the internet and or through a real estate agent, not at an open house.

Buyers who wait for an open house to tour a home are missing out. Only a small percentage of homes for sale are held open each week. With the low inventory of homes for sale, it is best to ask your real estate agent to set up a private showing.

Open houses are an opportunity for Realtors to prospect. It is a great opportunity to collect names, phone numbers, and email addresses which are the lifeblood of the real estate business.

Attending open houses is wonderful for neighbors and for people who may eventually buy a house. It is shopping and there are people who love to shop.

If you are a homeowner and do not want to have open houses just let your agent know. If you believe that open houses are necessary and an essential part of the sales process let your agent know that too.