Getting rid of clutter can be a challenge

One of my clients spent three years getting her house ready to sell. She got rid of decades worth of stuff and decluttered every room.

Real estate professionals often talk about “decluttering” a home before it is put on the market but what is clutter?

Here are some examples:

We always advise home sellers to clean and declutter before putting a home on the market, but what is clutter? We don’t all define clutter the same way. I define it as “stuff” that distracts potential home buyers.

The stuff keeps potential buyers from seeing the beauty of the home. Here are a few items that become clutter once the home is for sale:

  1. Family photos.

    Antique Teapot
  2. Wall calendars.
  3. Refrigerator magnets.
  4. Too many house plants, real or fake.
  5. Too many books
  6. Doilies
  7. Throw rugs
  8.  Extra dining room chairs
  9. Large ottomans
  10. Large coffee tables
  11. Extra end tables
  12. Collections of almost anything

The important thing to remember is that it is alright to use our homes anyway we see fit but when it comes to selling a home it is all about marketing. Women, in particular, react negatively to “clutter”. Less really is more and when in doubt, leave it out. The general idea is to make the space look larger and a bit more generic.

My list is only partial and has the most common items that I ask homeowners to remove from rooms. Homes that are not decluttered sell too. The list is aimed at the homeowners that want to go that extra mile and put some effort into getting the most money for their home in the least amount of time.

The longer people have lived in a home the harder it is for them to de-clutter. As a service to my clients, I go through their homes before they put them on the market and make suggestions.

Active home buyers are out in force

Here is a chart from Showingtime that shows appointments to see houses that are for sale. ShowingTime is widely used for appointments throughout the region and the data is always interesting.

showingtime chart – click on the chart to enlarge

Activity is up from last year and the chart shows the dip in March and May due to the stay at home orders. Year over year the numbers are up and as I showed last week home sales are strong.

As an interesting statistic homes that sold in March and April got an average of 6.5 showings before selling. Current averages are 7.6 showings per home.  Year over year showings are up and so are home sales.

Buy low sell high

Right now is a spectacularly bad time for most people to buy residential real estate.  Home prices are at historic highs as home buyers outbid each other until they reach new heights. There is a raging pandemic and an economic recession.

I say “most” people because there are exceptions. There are always people who have to move and sometimes it does cost more to rent.

Too many people are making decisions based on the pandemic. They are assuming they will have jobs and that they can work from home long term. Most jobs and conditions of employment are not long term but mortgages are for 10 to 30 years.

There has been a shortage of homes for sale for the last several years and the pandemic has made it worse.  The demand is high and the supply is low and prices are often too high.

It truly is a fantastic time to sell a house. I am not sure there has ever been a better time to sell a house.  Houses sell quickly and they sell for top dollar.

Homeowners can take advantage of a once in a lifetime event and make a nice profit even if they have only owned the home for a few years.

It is also a great time to own real estate, especially real estate without a mortgage. It might be a good time to refinance depending upon your current interest rate and how much you owe.

A better time to buy might be mid-2021 or maybe early 2022. By 2026 the housing shortage may ease up a bit as the oldest baby boomers turn 80.

If you are planning on buying or selling real estate I am here to help. I’ll be here in 2026 too.

Rates are flat and low

Here is the weekly chart from FreddieMac mortgage rate survey. Not only is it a good time to buy a house it is also a great time to refinance. It is best to refinance before a job change or layoff. . . which is why I mention it today. A few months ago I had predicted that mortgage rates would not go below 3%. I am happy to be wrong about that.

Rates have remained stable for the last several months.


Primary Mortgage Market Survey

Home value and size are related

Location, condition, and size are the three elements that influence the value of a home. I am not talking about dollar value. When a client asked me to come up with a value for his house I found three different square footage.

The foundation size was the same everywhere I checked so I went with that multiplied by two for rough square footage that I can use as a starting point until I can measure or have it measured.

When I looked at information from when the house was last on the market I discovered that it grew by almost 500 square feet between 1989 and 2002. There were no additions to the home during that time.

It is a small house and it was marketed as being about 300 square feet larger than it actually is. With that additional 300 square feet, the house could be worth 50K more than it is worth without it.

When you look in our MLS (multiple listing service) there is a disclaimer that says that the information about homes for sale ” is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed”.

I think some real estate agents and homeowners are creative or maybe they just add random amounts of square footage. At any rate, buyers can take their own measurements.

When measuring a house it is the total finished square footage and the total square footage that matters the most. Finished square footage is more valuable than unfinished.

Above ground square footage is usually but not always more valuable than below ground square footage.

If you own a home or if you have had one appraised you should have accurate measurements in the appraisal. Tax records also list square footages but they are not always accurate. My house is missing 350 square feet and the reason is that the house I own isn’t the original house that was on the lot.

Size does matter when it comes to the value of a house.

Happy First day of September

This September the only thing that looks normal are home sales if we compare them with the last five years. I ran some searches for home sales in Ramsey, Anoka, and Washington county. I’ll call it the “tri-county” area, with a mix of suburban and urban areas. When I look at the counties individually I saw the same trends.

We have seasonal peaks and valleys in home sales and home prices too.

If I look at months of inventory in my tri-county area and in January of 2015 we had a balanced real estate market with a six month supply of houses. By balanced I mean that it wasn’t a buyers market or a seller’s market. We have has a seller’s market every month since. Currently, there is a two month supply of homes for sale. In St. Paul there is a 1.8 month supply.


chart of home sales and prices
Home sales and prices

I’ll have August home sale numbers for St. Paul up on Monday.