There is always something broken at my house

Things break and they are more likely to break shortly after new homeowners move in. A few years ago a couple bought a house and discovered that the veggie sprayer wasn’t working. The new homeowners threatened to sue the sellers over it and demanded an amount of money that far exceeded the cost of installing a new sprayer.

Elderly appliances can break down as soon as a new home buyer touches them. It is like appliances know the house has changed hands. That old washer will work for decades but as soon as it changes hands it breaks. Most of the appliances that are sold with houses are considered personal property and are not real estate. I like to think of working appliances as a bonus.

Plumbing leaks happen and sometimes electrical problems too.

In my house, there is always something broken. So far this year we have had an electrician restore power to the electrical outlets in the kitchen and we have had our washer repaired and it looks like I’ll be buying another one soon. We had water leaking in around a window and repaired it by recaulking. Our elderly dehumidifier broke down last week and leaked all over the floor.  I ended up buying a new one.

I am not trying to scare anyone off but if you own a home you will need to make repairs and replace appliances. That is just part of the bargain.

If you buy or sell a house something will go wrong I promise. Be prepared and stay calm.

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.

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.

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.

How much should you offer?

It is hard to know how much to offer when buying houses in St. Paul. Homes with multiple offers will sell for more than the asking price. There is a learning curve with each price range and neighborhood. A little house hunting brings most buyers up to speed on which homes are going to sell quickly at their current price.

When I looked at what percentage of the original list price home sellers got I found that for the last two years the median is 100%.

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

Graph of sale price
sale price as a percentage of the last asking price