A Monday like no other

The Mayor of St. Paul declared a state of local emergency to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  The schools are closed and so are the libraries and the zoo. Water shutoffs will be suspended for 30 days and permits will not be issued for gatherings of more than 50 people.

Social distancing is recommended and that means putting some space between yourself and others. Six feet is recommended.

From what I understand toilet paper isn’t a cure for the virus and soap and water actually works better than hand sanitizer for washing hands. The water that comes out of the faucets in St. Paul is quite drinkable. If you can’t find bottled water in the stores try filling a reusable glass with water from the faucet.

The stores near me ran out of bleach and disinfectant wipes weeks ago. You can use bleach or disinfectant to sanitize surfaces. Read the directions on the bottles. Be careful where you use that bleach it can damage surfaces.

We have been using isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)  to disinfect our germy phones and iPads.

If you have to stay home you might want to consider limiting your time on Facebook or Twitter. There is more drama than usual on Facebook.

Later in the week I’ll look at some data and try to figure out what kind of impact COVID-19 is having on the local real estate market. It was quiet over the weekend. Unless your house is on the market or you sell real estate chances are you are not thinking about real estate.

Local Information about Coronavirus (COVID-19)


Lead or copper? What is your water line made of?

I read a story of the weekend about tow little boys and how exposure to lead affected their lives.  I have written about lead-based paint a few times.

Most of the houses I sell are old and I tell my clients to assume that there is lead-based paint in the home and to have it tested before disturbing it.

The drinking water in your home can contain lead if there is lead in the plumbing and or the water line going from the street into your home is made of lead.

If you own a home in St. Paul you can use the account number on your water bill to look up your waterline and see if it is made from lead or copper.

Find more information on the City of St. Paul household water page


screenshot from of water line look-up result

Lead waterlines are most common for houses built before 1926 which is most of my neighborhood including my own home but the waterline was upgraded in the late 1980’s

Our first primary in 28 years


Yes, it is Super Tuesday AND we don’t have to go caucus because for the first time in 28 years there will be a primary.

Registered voters can vote at their usual polling place on March 3. If you are unsure of where you vote, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website has a polling place finder. Most polling places are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

I’ll be honest I always hated caucuses but have been to many of them over the years. I vote in every election, I always have but I have not participated in every caucus.

It is too late for the people who voted early to change their vote if their candidate dropped out. The deadline was last Tuesday.

The next presidential election is still 245 days away, and inauguration day 2021 is 322 days away. A lot can happen between now and then and I think I am safe in predicting that it will.

There will be misinformation and lots of arguing and some lying too but we will get through it.

Why can’t we think outside the big house box?

tiny house

There is a housing affordability crisis in the Twin Cities and all over the country. I think that tiny houses and micro-apartments might be a solution.

There isn’t really an agreed-upon definition for a tiny house.  I think of homes that are less than 500 square feet and have found many that are less than 300 or even 200 square feet of finished living space. When they get down to 100 square feet they seem too small to call home.

These dwellings are much less expensive than a more standard size house. The idea is to spend less on housing and have fewer belongings and more time to spend doing something besides working for money and accumulating stuff that requires space.

Smaller houses also cost less to heat and cool and to insure. They require less maintenance and less furniture.

On average people who own tiny houses have money in the bank and many of them have no mortgage.

Today isn’t at all unusual for first time home buyers to be looking for at least 2000 square feet and the averages for new construction, at least in the burbs is closer to 2400 square feet. They don’t have enough stuff to fill it up so they start acquiring and accumulating.

Some studies have suggested that families who live in tighter quarters get along better because they spend more time together. Yet the most common reason for wanting a bigger house is to have room for children.

Many of the tiny houses are mobile and can be moved to a lot. Of course in the city, you mostly can’t do that but in some parts of the country the demand for tiny houses is changing local zoning laws, but in St. Paul laws are slow to change.

Having a tiny house far away from the city isn’t as sustainable as having it in the city close to amenities and jobs and perhaps using public transportation.

Accessory dwellings units, which are tiny houses in people’s back yards have been permitted in St. Paul, since 2016. I have seen a few. They can only house relatives or be used as offices or studios.

Adu – from the city of St. Paul web site

I think there is a market for tiny condos in downtown St. Paul. There are spaces that are less than 500 square feet. They are never marketed as tiny condos but they should be. Most have full-sized kitchens which really seems like a waste of space. Why not have a galley kitchen? I like the idea of a Murphy bed too or a sleeper sofa that can double as a place to sit.

When something comes on the market in the area that is small I usually go see it. We all have the idea of a dream house, I dream small.

There are numerous websites dedicated to tiny houses and they can be built from kits that can be ordered online but there aren’t any kits for tiny condos. 🙂 We are not seeing micro-apartments yet but they are sure to travel from the coasts and make it inland in the next decade or so and eventually maybe we will be able to put some tiny houses on city lots.

Small houses on small lots

Street Seal Coating

We got a bill from the city of St. Paul for $430+ dollars for seal coating the street. That amount was just our share. Seal coating must be very expensive. The city returned the money and said we should ignore the bill because our street wasn’t seal coated in 2019. We knew that.

The city does have a handy seal coating map. If they stay on schedule we can look forward to sending them a check at the end of the year. 2020 seal coating rates have not yet been set. I am thinking they will be higher rather than lower.

If you would like more information about the city seal coating program type “St. Paul seal coating program” into Google search. I would include a link but like most government entities the city frequently moves pages around so that I end up with broken links.

Yea St. Paul!

sealcoating map - st. paul
St. Paul seal coating map

Features buyers want in homes

old house with steeple
Queen Anne house in St. Paul

Here are some of the features home buyers are looking for according to a survey the National Association of Home Builders. The good news is most of them can be added to any existing home. A walk-in pantry might be a challenge but several items on the list are easy to do.

  • Laundry rooms
  • Energy Star–rated windows
  • Hardwood flooring
  • Walk-in pantries
  • Patios
  • Ceiling fans
  • Kitchen double sink

New construction in the five-county metro area costs an average of 610,000. The most expensive item on the list is the laundry room.  The average cost of adding a laundry room is about $6000.

New homes built in the five-county metro area in 2019 had 3.57 bedrooms, 3.19 baths and an average of 2725 square feet of finished living space. Almost twice as big as my little antique St. Paul home with the unfinished basement where there is plenty of space for a laundry room.