Minnesota gets the “stay at home order”

Welcome to COVID-19 day11 here in Minnesota

“Minnesota Governor Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-20 directing Minnesotans to Stay at Home. The order directs all individuals in Minnesota to stay at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The order is in effect as of Friday, March 27 at 11:59pm through Friday, April 10, 2020 at 5:00pm.

Realtors® and their clients may still conduct the activities necessary to facilitate real estate transactions in Minnesota during the time period covered by the order as long as they comply, to the maximum extent possible, with COVID-19 Guidelines including social distancing and hygiene and other requirements to the order.”

Minnesotans have been getting high marks for social distancing according to cell phone data that was gathered. We are for the most part doing our best to slow the spread of the virus. I have to admit when I go out for a walk and people move away from me I like it.

As for necessary real estate activities they include closings and selling houses. There won’t be any open houses for the foreseeable future. I have been getting calls from people to have to move. For the most part, they are elderly and no longer able to safely live in their homes.

Closing used to have us all sitting in a conference room signing papers. That has changed. Now buyers and sellers sign separately and ultimately the whole process may finally go online and use electronic signatures.

At this point houses in St. Paul are still selling. That gives me some hope but I know things can change quickly. Showings are down 28% which means fewer people are touring homes for sale but in recent months there have been more home buyers than homes for sale so maybe fewer showings won’t matter for a while.

Force majeure events and real estate contracts

Force Majeure

I feel fortunate and even blessed that my clients have been compassionate and fair during the current crisis.  There are people who have suddenly and unexpectedly lost their jobs through no fault of their own. They may have to cancel the purchase of a home. The purchase agreement may involve non-refundable earnest money or earnest money no longer refundable.

Yes having a buyer back out of a purchase is a huge inconvenience to a home seller who may be out money, and may even have to cancel the purchase of a home they were going to buy.  There are things that happen to us through no fault of our own that we don’t have control over and could not have prevented.

A worldwide pandemic is inconvenient for all of us and has changed our plans for today and for the immediate future.

“Force majeure refers to unforeseeable circumstances that prevent a person or company from fulfilling a contract. The term means ‘superior force.’ We also use the terms irresistible forcevis majorcas fortuit, or casus fortuitus with the same meaning. Cas fortuit and casus fortuitus mean ‘chance occurrence.’”

I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a $5,000 or $10,000 earnest money deposit while facing unemployment because a seller insisted on enforcing the contract and keeping all or part of the earnest money.

Right now everyone is inconvenienced and all of our plans have changed and it isn’t anyone’s fault. The good news is that houses are still fairly easy to sell. A couple of days ago we had a buyer cancel a purchase and we were able to get a new purchase agreement signed a few hours later with a different buyer.

If you are in a position to be kind to someone else please do it even if the contract says you get to keep the earnest money. Chances are when the contract was signed neither party anticipated that businesses would close or that jobs would be lost.

Going forward real estate contracts will be updated to include language about pandemics.


Open houses are not necessary

It is a myth that we need to hold houses open to sell them.  If you need or want to sell your house but do not want to have open houses we have sold a few houses this month very quickly without having open houses.

It is Sunday and there are a few open houses today but not many.

Data from Friday shows that private home showings are actually trending up. I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture because things are changing quickly but there is a lot of activity in the real estate market.

When agents bring buyers to private showings those buyers are pre-approved by a lender and ready to buy they are not just looking.

If you need to sell a house that isn’t being lived in right now I can’t think of any reason not to. Demand for houses especially those priced under $250,000 is extremely strong right now.

We don’t even need to meet in person to put a house on the market or to accept an offer. So far, home inspectors, appraisers, and loan officers are still working.

I will not recommend that buyers make offers on houses without touring them in person first. We can set up private tours for a home that are on the market and do it safely.

Open houses are not worth the risk especially considering that they are not a necessary part of the sales process.


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.