Even curious neighbors need appointments

Sometimes when I am entering a home for sale with my clients people will see us and ask if they can see the house too. Unfortunately, I have to say no.

When I tour a house with a buyer that is because the seller has given me permission to do so. That permission does not extend to anyone who walks in off the street.

Newer agents do not always understand this and neither do people who see homes for sale and are curious about them.

The best way to see homes for sale is to call your real estate agent and set up a private showing or attend an open house if there is an open house.

A for sale sign is not the same thing as an open house sign.

I have had people knock on the door while I was showing a house. They had been wanting to see the house. I had them call the number on the for sale sign in front. I would have been happy to work with them but they were looking for a house for their son.

Often people tell me they are looking for houses for their sons or daughters but the sons or daughters usually are not at all interested in the house.

busy open houses

milkweed
honey bee and milkweed – happy July!

A house that is for sale gets the most attention the first day and week it is on the market. If a house is priced right and by right I don’t mean underpriced it will sell with multiple offers in a weekend. with or without an open house.

If the house is listed as “coming soon” and there is an open house the day the house becomes an active listing the open house is likely to be well attended. That is part of the point of having a home for sale “coming soon”.

Do not judge a house by how many people attend the first open house. Try not to pay too much attention to what others who are attending the open house are saying.

If at all possible ask your REALTOR for a private showing instead of attending an open house. Often it is easier to look a house when it isn’t full of people.

I could write a whole post about the people who are not planning on buying a house who go through open houses. They include neighbors and mothers who wish their children would buy a house in the neighborhood.

The demand for houses in St. Paul remains strong and they do sell quickly. The inventory of homes on the market is at historic lows but slowly increasing.

Don’t let your security system send the wrong message

BarsA security system can make a home more desirable or it can scare buyers away.

I showed some buyers a home where there were bars on the door and the bars were locked. The front door had a couple locks on it and they were both locked.

The home had a security system and it was armed.  I received a complicated set of instructions on how to disarm it.  The alarm system was set so that it would go off if not deactivated within 15 seconds of the time that the door opened. 

Having never been in the house, I had to hope that I would immediately see the panel because there would not be enough time to hunt for it and deactivate it.

My buyers were left with the impression that the home is in a high crime area and that the owners could not leave it even for an hour on a Sunday afternoon without locking all the locks and arming the security system.

Maybe there is a good reason that a security system needs to be left on but the buyers don’t know that and so they imagine the worst.

In general homes for sale should be as easy to see as possible. If security is a big concern you can ask the agent who is listing your house to be present for showings and ask that they set the alarm when they leave.

Open houses and home sellers

Open houses have probably been around for as long as there have been houses. I am not referring to graduation open houses but to the kind of open house that real estate agents have so that buyers can see the house.

It isn’t necessary to have an open house in order to sell a house. Everyone knows a story about how someone went to an open house, fell in love with the house and bought it.

That is a rare occurrence it could be that it just happened a few times and everyone knows the story.

Houses will sell without an open house but real estate agents like to do opens so that they can meet potential home buyers who may be looking for a home and an agent to help them buy a house.

New agents, in particular, need to have open houses so that they can meet people and start building a client base. As visitors sign-in, they become “leads”.

There are some things sellers should do before an open house:

  1. Lock up any drugs.
  2. Remove pictures of small children.
  3. Remove valuables from the home or lock them up.
  4. Lock up important and confidential documents.
  5. Make sure that wall calendars and notes on the fridge don’t have any confidential information in them.

It isn’t just potential home buyers who show up at open houses. There are curious neighbors and people who have friends or children who might be interested in the house.

There are people who would like to buy the house but they are not able to. Sometimes people who used to live in the house show up to look it over.

I sometimes go through open houses with my buyers or I go because I know the agent and I want to say hi.

Sometimes your own agent will do the open sometimes other agents with the same company will do it. It is fairly common to run into inexperienced agents at open houses who can not answer simple questions about the house.

Open houses can be dangerous for agents who are in the house all alone.

Buyers should keep in mind that the agent in the open house is representing the sellers and should refrain from saying anything that might give the homeowner the upper hand in negotiating an offer. . . although now that I think about it owners already have the upper hand.

Hire a pro inspector instead of your friend

I see a lot of houses, like hundreds of old St. Paul houses every year. I have seen hundreds of inspection reports and have been on well over a hundred home inspections. There is always something that needs fixing in an old house and sometimes it needs so much work that buyers decide not to buy it.

Having a complete home inspection is an important step in the home buying process but those inspections are not free. Sometimes, buyers, have friends or relatives conduct the inspection.

What could possibly go wrong? Usually, these helpful friends or relatives miss a few important things. They don’t check the furnace or the water heater. They miss the fact the garbage disposal doesn’t work or that the new furnace does not have a filter in it.

They might not notice missing window screens or even cracked window glass. They may miss the gaps between the shower surround and the bathroom wall, or that the back door lacks any kind of weather stripping.

The helpful and knowledgeable friend does not use a systematic approach nor does he give the home buyer a report with pictures and recommendations. Usually, the friend does an incomplete or partial inspection.

If they are not familiar with the older houses in the inner city they may not know what some of the common problems are like ungrounded electrical systems and tree roots in the sewer line.

On the one hand, the buyer saves money because professional inspectors will generally charge at least $300. On the other hand, they may end up paying for repairs that they could have had the seller pay for if they had known about them during the inspection period.

St. Paul property look-up

Lilacs

In Saint Paul homeowners who are selling their home are required to have a Truth in Housing Inspection. Those reports are not always available as they should be. Anyone can look up a St. Paul property and get the Truth in Housing Report if there is one.

The city has a list of items that they check. Most of it is basic safety and homeowners are not required to make repairs but homes have to have at least one hard wired smoke detector and any open permits finalized before the property can change hands.

Often homeowners do not know that they have open permits. That information is on the Truth in Housing Report. If the permits do not get closed the sale may be delayed. Home buyers should look up the property and check for open permits.

Sometimes looking through closed permits is a good way to find out about work that was done on the property. Sometimes it is obvious that work that requires permits has been done but there are no permits.

Some of the work done without a permit might not have been done properly which can mean that work has to be redone before related permits can be pulled and closed.

There have been cases where lenders have asked that permits be pulled and closed before they will approve a loan. That can mean tearing into a wall to inspect some plumbing. I am not making this up, it has happened. Get information about permits on the StPaul.gov web site. I would include a link but the city moves pages around often creating broken links which are like a broken promise.

Other municipalities have a different set of rules. Minneapolis, South Saint Paul, and others require hazardous items to be repaired. Some cities do not require any kind of inspection.