Monday but it doesn’t feel like Monday

Here we are after over a month of stay at home orders. Working at home isn’t new to me but it was nice when I had a choice. Soon it will be warm enough to move out onto the front or back porch.

People are buying and selling houses and I have been busy and working every day. Some things take longer and are more difficult than they used to be but it all works out. We put a house on the market on Saturday and on Sunday the sellers accepted an inspection contingent offer.

In addition to my well-appointed home office, I have a small workspace in an upstairs bedroom and what I call my “playroom” in the basement. My playroom is where the sewing machines are which is my segway into mentioning that in Minnesota it is homemade mask week.

The Office of Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan announced on Saturday a statewide, week-long homemade mask drive to aid residents and workers within local congregate living facilities on the frontline of fighting COVID-19.

Participating Minnesotans are asked to donate their homemade masks to their local fire departments on April 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – which will then be delivered to congregate facilities in need.

Here are some instructions on how to make the masks from the Minnesota Department of Health.

I also have friends and neighbors who would like some masks. My goal is to make 100 of them this week.

clothe face masks
First batch of masks



open houses are strongly discouraged

Some local real estate companies said that open houses are safe because their agents got special training. Other real estate companies said no more open houses. My attitude about it is that if the people who work in the local restaurants do not get to go to work I shouldn’t disrespect them by having open houses. We really are all in this together.

Open houses are advertised in our MLS and then sent out a notice stating that:

“Effective immediately and until further notice, the scheduling of Open Houses in NorthstarMLS has been suspended. Also, any currently scheduled Open Houses in the NorthstarMLS system have been canceled and removed from the MLS. This action will remove the publication of Open House dates from IDX feeds and syndication to public-facing websites, as well.”

It all has to do with us keeping our distance from each other so that we don’t all get sick at once and flood hospitals with people who can’t breathe.

The good news is houses are still selling. At least for now. I think it is because of pent up demand and low-interest rates. That demand will weaken as jobs are lost. Right now we don’t know how many people will be laid off.


Longer days and more light

Ask any stager, real estate agent or designer and they will tell you that light matters. Generally more light is better. If you have a home to sell and can not afford to fix it up nice clean it, wash the windows and light the light shine in.

Remove heavy drapes and open the window blinds. The days are still too short to look at houses in the evening but that will change in a few weeks when daylight savings time starts.

Sometimes homebuyers are like moths. They are attracted to the light and they may not even realize that is why they love one house and like another.

Loft – This unit has huge windows and is East-facing
Well lit rooms
North Facing Home – photographed with lights on


Those prospecting letters

This is the time of year when homeowners will get letters from real estate agents who have buyers.

Those buyers want to live in your neighborhood or they want to buy a house just like yours. If there are a lot of real estate agents


“farming” the neighborhood homeowners will get several letters.

Right now there are a lot of people who would like to buy a home just like yours or a home in your neighborhood. The demand for housing is high. Let this blog post serve as my letter to homeowners that we are working with buyers who are looking for a home to buy.

The very best way to attract home buyers right now is to have a house that is for sale.

There are also a few entities that will buy your home as-is for cash with no inspections except here in St. Paul a truth in housing inspection is required before a single-family home can change hands.

I get at least one letter a month from a company that buys houses. I suspect that we are on a list somewhere of empty nesters who own a house.

Yes, this is a very good time to sell a house. I’ll have some January sales numbers tomorrow.

lead letter
Template for seller lead

If you are interested in selling I do have buyers interested in your house in your neighborhood. Please call or write anytime for a free no-obligation consultation.

Hasty decisions and cold feet

We are noticing an uptick in home buyers making an offer on a home for sale and then backing out during the inspection phase, sometimes before the inspection.

Often buyers do not have much of a chance to look at or think about their purchase. Houses sell quickly and often get multiple offers.

Homebuyers who bid high on a house that just came on the market may not have taken the time to really think it through. They develop a severe case of buyer’s remorse and want to stop the purchase.

Usually, the house can be put right back on the market and if there were multiple offers the seller can accept another buyer’s offer. Home sellers can and should keep collecting offers until the sale closes.

There really isn’t any way that home sellers can prevent a buyer from backing out. Even buyers who offer a lot of earnest money will back out early enough so that they do not lose their earnest money.

Sometimes home buyers will ask for a lot of repairs as a way to back out of a purchase. I had some buyers that did that a few years back. Instead of telling me that another home was on the market that they liked better they came up with a lengthy list of repairs and upgrades.

When the sellers said no they canceled the purchase, got their earnest money back and immediately made an offer on another home.

The risk of loss clause

I ran into a Realtor who did not understand the “Risk of loss” clause in the standard purchase agreement. If the property is damaged after the final acceptance date on the contract but before the closing, the buyer has the option of canceling the contract.  The buyer must do so in writing and the buyer and seller must sign a cancellation and earnest monies are refunded to the buyer.

Damage can occur after a severe storm or maybe an accident. Some home repairs fail eventually, siding, roofs, furnaces, and water heaters wear out or malfunction.

There isn’t anything in the contract that would require the owner to make repairs either. Homebuyers should do a final walkthrough of the

fire fighters

home before the closing. If something in the home has been damaged or is broken it should be addressed before closing.

Closing dates can be changed as needed with an agreement from both parties.

The risk of loss clause doesn’t specify the amount of damage that has to have happened to the property. If a home burns to the ground after an offer has been accepted but before the closing, the buyer does not have to proceed with the purchase.

If the roof develops a leak before the closing there are all kinds of remedies. One remedy is to put money in escrow for repairs. The seller can get a bid and have that amount of money withheld from the proceeds of the sale. The money can be held by the title company.

There is a myth out there that money held in escrow must be 1.5 times the amount needed to make the repairs. That is only true in some cases where the buyer’s lender asks that money be put in escrow to pay for repairs.

When choosing a real estate agent it is a good idea to find someone who has some experience. The unexpected can happen at any point in a real estate transaction. A good real estate agent can find solutions to any problem that arises. Having experience really helps. There are times though when the buyer or seller should consult an attorney.