Home inspectors for better or worse

Home inspectors are not licensed in Minnesota.  A person can buy a franchise or go out on his own and become a home inspector. I say this because most home inspectors are men. I am referring to the complete home inspection requested and paid for by home buyers.

There are some wonderful inspectors out there. There are also some who really don’t know what they are doing and over the years I have seen it all.

Sometimes, buyers, have friends or family members conduct the inspection. That can work but only if the person doing the inspection knows what to inspect and have a system so that they don’t miss something vital.

One of the worst things an inspector can do is give advice outside his area of expertise. For example, an inspector should not say that a boiler needs to be replaced. He should recommend that the buyer have a licensed HVAC contractor inspect the boiler. He can also state his findings like ‘rust” or “leaking” etc.

Sometimes an inspection will lead to another inspection this is especially true in the case of heating plants, chimneys, and main sewer lines.

An inspector should never tell the buyer what the seller should repair. It is up to the buyer and seller to work that out. In most cases are no rules about who is responsible for repairs.

The inspector should not tell the buyer that the HOA is or is not responsible for a repair, or that they are not responsible for it. The condo documents will outline what the association is and is not responsible for. Generally, if an item that needs repair is inside the condo and if it is used exclusively by the condo then the condo owner is responsible for repairs and maintenance.  Always consult the condo documents.

Mold always means trouble and is often mislabeled by well-meaning inspectors.  I have seen requests to have entire foundations replaced due to “toxic black mold”.  I often refer home buyers and sellers to the Minnesota Department of Health website. They have excellent information about mold. Not all mold is harmful. Penicillin is an example of a helpful mold.

Realtors usually know several good inspectors but should always be recommending at least three inspectors. The buyer’s agent should not choose the inspector that choice is an important part of the buyer’s due diligence.

I’ll always recommend a complete home inspection before committing to buying a house. The inspection also protects the sellers who may not know about a repair issue that they can be accused of hiding.


If the home is overpriced offer less

small houseWaiting for the price of a home to go down is a great way to miss out on a lower price. Home buyers save listings that they find on various websites and track them waiting for the price to go down.  While they are doing that a savvy home buyer finds the listing, falls in love, and offers less than the asking price.  Guess which home buyer gets the house?

The savvy buyer of course.

The smart home seller makes sure their home is correctly priced when it goes on the market. The not-so-savvy home seller “tries” the house at a higher price. Buyers see that the home is for sale but instead of making an offer, they wait for the price to go down.

A higher sale price on a house does not make the house worth more, nor does it attract buyers.

Proper pricing is very important. If the goal is to sell the house rather than have a bunch of interested buyers watch for a price cut it is important to start at the right price.

We are still experiencing a shortage of houses for sale in the metro area and prices are still slowly rising. My advice it to work with an experienced Realtor if you are buying or selling real estate this spring.

Negotiation is part of the homebuying process.

Old Window

Real estate agents always need training. I have been in business for over 20 years and I am still learning. During the pandemic, there was an influx of new real estate agents. I can usually tell right away when I am working with someone new.

Often they don’t know what they don’t know so they do not ask the right questions. Real estate agents are usually independent contractors and they don’t get much supervision. Real estate brokers are responsible for all of the agents working under them and all agents must work under a broker.

I digress. It is the little things like not knowing that a request to have the carpet cleaned can go into an offer on a house. In fact, a buyer can ask to have a home professionally cleaned and they can ask for repairs too. The seller can say no but they often say yes.

Buyers can ask to have items removed from the house as a condition in a purchase agreement and they can ask for items to be left in the house too. Many things are negotiable including the price. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Agents who started in the last couple of years may not have had to use negotiating skills. Houses went on the market and got multiple offers there wasn’t much negotiating. That still happens today but not always.

. . I love to negotiate.

Most home buyers are smarter than smart home technology

Many of us use “smart home” technology. For example, I have a thermostat that is on the internet and can be controlled with my phone. Same with thescreen print from Kasa app washer and dryer. I am interested in getting some smart locks so that I can lock the backdoor from anywhere or maybe just check to see if it is locked.

Some of our light bulbs are smart bulbs that I have on timers and I have some smart electrical outlets that are on schedules. One of them controls some lights that come on at sunset.

There is a camera in my office that is also on the network. I can control it with my phone and I can see what is going on in my office from anywhere. Several of my neighbors have “Ring” doorbells so they can watch the packages being stolen from their front porch from anywhere or just replay it when after they notice the packages missing.

In the standard Minnesota purchase agreement used by Realtors, it says that the homeowner has to give the home buyer the passwords and control of smart home technology.

I recently read an article about how a homeowner in another state could not control the devices in his home. I think it was one of those stories based on an idea a reporter had and he found someone to go along with it. I can see so many workarounds including removing the offending device.

For one thing, as soon as these devices are off of wifi they can not be controlled. Once they are on new wifi the owner should be able to reprogram or find someone who can.

Most homeowners do not leave active Wifi behind.  Thermostats can usually be controlled at the thermostat. They can also be reset completely. Once they are offline they can not be remotely controlled.

Light bulbs are not that smart. It is probably best for the homeowner to replace them with dumb bulbs and take the smart bulbs when they leave. It is the same with smart outlets. Once they are unplugged they are stupid. I have two different types and they all have reset buttons.

If for some reason a homeowner comes in possession of smart home devices that are out of control there is always help online through the manufacturer. They know even more than your Facebook friends or the not-always-friendly folks on Nextdoor.  There are also numerous free guides on the internet that are actually pretty good.

It is nice though to have passwords so that devices do not need to be completely reset. Having the code to the garage door opener is nice too but they can also be reset.

If I bought a home that had smart devices I would ask for the passwords as a condition of closing. I would also reset those passwords as soon as I took possession of the house. I would remove any device that I could not control or reset. Problem solved.

The relationship between clicks and offers

We have a lot of data these days. Much more than we had when I started in real estate 21 years ago. We can find out how many times someone clicked on one of our listings on any of the major real estate portal websites.

On some sites, we can see if our listings got more visits than similar listings.

We can also see if the listing was “favorited” by a buyer and if that buyer has a local agent we get that information too through “reverse prospecting”. When someone shares one of our listings with a friend we can see that it was shared.

The information is interesting but I have yet to see a correlation between clicks and offers.

It is true that people who are not planning to buy a house anytime soon will spend hours looking at them online. That is a good thing because those future buyers become more familiar with the housing market.

house in winter

In the end, to sell a house we need one good offer. Only one person can buy it. If a lot of people are looking at it online we know that it is being well advertised and that the type of property and maybe even the price appeals to a large group of people.

I sometimes look at historic houses online because I like historic houses. I also get ideas for staging by looking at homes that are for sale. Looking at real estate photography has helped me to perfect my own real estate photography.

How many times does a home get shared, viewed, or saved before it gets an offer? Is the number a constant or does it vary by neighborhood and price range?  Sometimes the offer comes the day the house goes on the market because someone saw a for-sale sign.

I have also found that some housing styles get more attention online yet they take longer to sell. Lofts are an example of that most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong it is nice to have all of that data but sometimes I think people attach more meaning to it than they should. We do know that people look at n average of 6 to 12 houses before they buy one but that doesn’t include time spent looking at pictures online.

I use analytics on this site which will turn 18 later this year. I know from experience that when the traffic goes up we usually see an increase in real estate buying and selling activity six weeks later.

Sevice has changed

Turret collage

The meaning of the word service has changed. It used to be all about helping clients and responding to client or customer needs.

I don’t believe that giving clients a questionnaire prior to meeting with them is a service. They do that before medical appointments so the doctor can set the tone and show how little they care about patients as humans.

I think that asking questions that are tailored to the situation is a much better use of my client’s time. Asking each question once should suffice.

I never ask anyone to download an app onto their phone so that they can work with me. For people who want to work with an app, I can make that happen but it isn’t required.

Customer satisfaction surveys are crap. Many businesses state that they are performing a great service when they ask us to fill out a satisfaction survey. The surveys often miss the point or fail to allow us to highlight our extreme dissatisfaction, or are so ridiculously long that I feel as though people should be paid for their time.

There are aspects of customer service that can be automated, like voice mail and autoresponders for email. They both help small companies like mine. I can not always answer the phone or an email immediately but it doesn’t take me long to get back to the people who contact me.

Sometimes I think that businesses believe that they will appear to be more professional if they use a lot of forms and processes. Often when people call with a question the very first thing they get is a series of questions. The processes create unnecessary friction that makes it harder for people to use a service or buy a product.

Nothing says I don’t care about you or have any empathy for your situation like a generic questionnaire. I think that is why doctors’ offices use them so much.

Customer service isn’t about putting people on hold and letting them know that their call may be recorded for quality purposes.

I don’t have any generic clients. Each one is unique and so is each property that I represent or sell.  You can call or write and I’ll do my best to provide professional help with your real estate needs.