Happy Presidents Day – and a reminder to vote

American flag
American Flag

Yes, it is President’s Day today. So far there have been 46 presidents of the United States. So far all but one have been white. White men make up approximately 31% of the US population.

Both of my US senators are women as is my state senator. Our Saint Paul City council is all women, but there has never been a female St. Paul mayor or Minnesota Governor. I like to think that at least we are building a pipeline and maybe sometime in the next 100 years we will elect a female president of the United States.

Women have had the right to vote for the last 104 years, but do not have equal rights. The Equal Rights Amendment failed in the Senate again last year. Women’s reproductive rights have been taken away in several states and women are dying because of it. We seem to be going backward. Let’s go forward.

Happy President’s Day!

What you post on Facebook matters

One of the first things I do when I meet is search for them on social media. I always find it a little disturbing when I can not find someone on social media but some people just don’t use it.

If you are selling your house you might want to take care about posting anything that might weaken your negotiating power. Avoid posting anything about being in a hurry to sell.  Buyers will pick up on anything that sounds desperate and use it to their advantage.

It is best not to answer too many questions or post that the real reason you are selling is because you hate the house and the neighborhood.  Keep everything positive.

Home buyers should take care about what they post on Facebook recognizing that the sellers may see it. They will check you out every way they can before accepting your offer.

There are plenty of scams on social media too and it is a great place for the crooks to collect information they can use for fraud.

Posting that your house is on the market with a link to more information about it is usually a good idea. If you are not being represented by a real estate agent you may receive many messages and comments from local agents.

Personally, I don’t crowd-source advice about anything on Facebook. My friends are wonderful but they are rarely the best source of advice about money, home repairs, or health care.

Remember real estate is local. Advice from friends who have bought or sold real estate in other states may not apply to your situation.

Please be careful out there.


Without the MLS

fair housing logo

In real estate, MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. When a Realtor lists your house it goes on the MLS and from there it gets fed to real estate portal sites on the internet. Zillow and Realtor dot com and Homes dot com are the largest real estate portals. The listings also get fed to real estate company websites like Edina Realty,

The MLS, NorthstarMLS in our region is the source of homes for sale. Without the service, we wouldn’t know about homes that are for sale. Kind of like in my neighborhood where many homes are sold by word of mouth.

There are people who know people, some have lived in the area since the 1970’s and now their children are adults and they carry on the tradition of helping friends find homes for sale.

The downside for home buyers is that they need to know someone if they want a shot at some of the best housing in the area.

Using the MLS is a great way to promote fair housing. We don’t have to know anyone to find homes for sale on the internet.

Is 6% the “going rate”?

If you are paying 6% in real estate commissions you may be paying too much. Commissions are always negotiable. There is no set rate and it is a violation of anti-trust laws for agents or brokers to discuss commissions outside of their own company. In other words, we can not compare our rates or agree to all charge the same amount.

If you do some research you will notice that there aren’t any price lists out there. Most of us will negotiate and as a result, our rates may not be the same across the board.

The reason why real estate agents charge a percentage of the sale price of the home is because even 6% sounds better than 18 or 40 thousand dollars.

Real estate agents will say that you get what you pay for. I haven’t found that to be true. New agents tend to charge as much as experienced agents. Experience really matters. New agents rarely have a clue as to what it is they don’t know.

Negotiate with your real estate agent. If the agent will not negotiate go ahead and assume that they don’t know how to and hire someone who will negotiate.

Also, keep in mind that real estate agents are usually independent contractors who do not make any money until they sell a house and that sale closes.

I have used the fact that many homeowners believe that there is a going rate to my advantage. The rate is often more than I plan to charge and it enables me to start negotiating at a higher level.

Most real estate agents I know do work hard but many make it sound as though they are doing God’s work and selling real estate is the hardest and most important job there is.

It is important to keep our perspective.

January is for Radon awareness

January is National Radon Awareness Month. There is a lot of misinformation out there about radon and where it could be hiding. We can not see it or feel it or hear it but that doesn’t mean it isn’t in our homes, offices, and schools.

The winter months are one of the best times to test radon levels and we have lots of radon in Minnesota.

Homebuyers should always have a radon test as part of the home inspection.  It doesn’t matter if the next-door neighbors have tested and do not have radon or if no one knows of anyone in the neighborhood who has ever had a positive radon test.

When buying or selling a house the radon test should be conducted by a professional. 

Most homeowners have never tested for radon even though it is estimated that nearly half of all Minnesota an estimated 40% of homes have elevated levels of radon.

I’ll never forget the time the real estate agent told the buyers that she had never heard of radon in the neighborhood. It just doesn’t work that way.

Radon gas can be anywhere and everywhere. Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that comes from the soil. When inhaled these fine particles can damage the lungs. Exposure to radon over a long period of time can lead to lung cancer.

The average radon level in Minnesota is more than three times higher than the U.S. radon level. This is due to our geology and how our homes are operated. Minnesota homes are closed up or heated most of the year, which can result in higher levels of radon. In Minnesota, more than two in five homes have radon levels that pose a significant health risk.

Radon can be mitigated.  Sometimes when houses have high levels of radon in them the sellers will agree to pay for a mitigation system.

Learn more from the Minnesota Department of Health

Info graphic national radon hotline 1-800-sos-radon

MLK Day 2024

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2024, which is a federal holiday. Banks, post offices, and government offices will be closed but with so many people working from home these days, it may be hard to tell.   Public schools are closed today too.

It is very cold out, I suspect that most people will stay indoors if given a choice.

King stood for equal rights, civil rights, and voting rights. He opposed the Vietnam War. He planned and participated in several protests against housing discrimination, steering, and redlining.

On this Martin Luther King’s birthday, let us reflect on how far we have to go before there is housing, jobs, and medical care for all. Sure that isn’t exactly what King’s dream was but it is a dream worth dreaming. Poverty, lack of food, housing, shelter, and medical care are choices we made as a county. There isn’t any reason for poverty or discrimination other than it helps the wealthy.

Dr. Martin Luther King Speaking at the University of Minnesota
Dr. Martin Luther King Speaking at the University of Minnesota –

Photograph from the Minnesota Historical Society collection