Ride every day in May

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. I have long had the opinion that riding a bike in St. Paul is a lot more fun in May than it is in April. Just because someone in Minnesota decided that the month of April should be “30 days of biking” doesn’t make April bikable.  I have had my bike out a couple of times. I just don’t bike on the days when it is snowing, raining or really cold or against 20 to 40 mile an hour winds.

There are 2 or 3 days at the end of April the that are great for biking if we have an early spring. At the beginning of April, it is still winter and we get an average of 2.5 inches of snow in April but we have gotten a lot more than that some years. There are at least six months when outdoor cycling is more fun than it is in April. The snowstorm that started on Wednesday closed the schools yesterday got most of the bikes off the road.

I started my own tradition because I am not at all afraid to go against the rules of the biking establishment.  I will celebrate the beautiful month of May with 31 days of biking.

During the month of May, I will post lame pictures of my bike on Instagram in random locations around St. Paul and use the tag #31dMN each day during the month of May. If you are passionate about spring and about biking feel free to join me and use my hashtag. 🙂

You might be ready to sell but is your kitchen ready?

Getting a house ready to sell is often about cleaning, painting and small repairs. Your kitchen may need extra attention and deeper cleaning. Here are some suggestions on what you can do to get your kitchen ready.

  1. Clear the countertops.  Remove anything that doesn’t need to be there and about half of the stuff that does need to be there. (My own math but it works)
  2. Clean cupboards inside and out. Put in some shelf liner.
  3. Remove any items from the cupboards that you will not be used during the next six weeks and then remove half of that.
  4. Clean out the fridge. Try to keep it clean with the minimum amount of food in it.
  5. Run the cleaning cycle on your oven(s). If you don’t know how to clean it find the model number, usually inside on the door frame and ask google for instructions. (Don’t ask Facebook, that takes too long.)
  6. Wipe everything down. Make those appliances sparkle. Clean that countertop and the windows too. Scrub the floor.
  7. Find a vanilla scented candle that can be left in the middle of the stove or cooktop during showings.
  8. If your kitchen is smallish remove any throw rugs.

Make sure that all light fixtures have light bulbs in them. Check the walls and ceilings for grease and dirt. Clean them if needed and repaint if necessary. Consider using a plug-in air freshener.

Personally, I like the candles that smell like various baked good or like apple and cinnamon.  Anything vanilla scented will remind the buyer of fresh baked cookies.

Some stagers like to put fake fruit and cookbooks in kitchens. Today’s buyers especially the younger buyers often prefer a more minimalist approach and kitchens with less in them look bigger.

Kitchens really do sell houses, make the most of the space.


Taking the stress out of home buying


A first-time homebuyer told me that signing the purchase agreement just about made her sick with stress. She asked if that is normal, I had to tell her it is normal to feel stress while signing a purchase agreement. Home purchases should not be taken lightly. Often the purchase of a home is the largest purchase we ever make.

Some real estate agents advertise that they can take the stress out of home buying. It isn’t even possible to know ahead of time what is going to cause the most stress or what the sellers might decide to do that will make the process extra stressful. There isn’t any way to take all of the stress out of the process. Some people are easily stressed out and others are not.

Here are some of the main sources of first time homebuyer stress:

  1. Doing something for the first time that involves a large sum of money.
  2. Never feeling in charge of the situation.
  3. knowing that owning a home will be a significant change that will affect most other aspects of life.
  4. The stress of having a mortgage and dealing with a lender.
  5. Issues uncovered during the inspection process or in dealing with the sellers.
  6. Moving.

Those are the main stressors but there are many more. Waiting is can be a huge stressor and there are times when we just have to wait. Competing with other buyers, the fear of paying too much and finding problems during an inspection are a few more.

I encourage people to listen to that inner voice and work through the issues. For most people owning a home is worth the effort.

Be prepared to deal with the ups and downs during the home search and buying process.

Buyers get ready to compete


The spring real estate market is competitive. It isn’t at all unusual for a home to get offers the day it comes on the market or even before. Buyers who must buy in April need to be able to compete with other home buyers and win.

Here are a few ways to beat the competition:

  1. Don’t wait for an open house, make an appointment and see the home as soon as it comes on the market.
  2. Be willing to look at houses before the weekend. look on your lunch hour or in the evening or leave work early. Get to the house first.
  3. Have an up-to-date pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender.
  4. work with a lender who is responsive.
  5. Work with a real estate agent who has experience and who is responsive.
  6. Decide ahead of time what your downpayment will be.
  7. Remember that if you are asking the seller to pay your closing costs that comes off of their bottom line. I have watched many buyers lose out by asking the seller to pay buyer closing costs.
  8. Be ready to move. An offer with a closing date months in the future might not be what the sellers are looking for.
  9. Be flexible on your closing date.
  10. Low ball offers on houses that were just listed today almost never work out.
  11. Always keep in mind that the current market is not fair or balanced but it is a seller’s market.

Loosing out on a house is not at all unusual. Learn from it and move on to the next opportunity.

One common mistake is to offer less as a starting point. In a multiple offer situation, the seller chooses the highest and best offer rather than negotiating with lower offers. Never assume that if you offer X then the seller will counter with Y.  Always be ready for the unexpected when dealing with people involved in buying or selling real estate.

Also, be aware of the fact that the special house you just found is probably going to be found by a zillion another home buyers. You won’t be the only interested buyer.

It is easier said than done but it is important to not get emotionally involved with the real estate that you are bidding on.

There is always another house for sale and who knows the one you end up with could be better than the one you lost out on.

Also, see:


Finding a bargain

Closing costs

Home sales and prices by neighborhood

Today I have some numbers for March home sales in St. Paul. It is starting to look like last year. The overall average sale price is higher for the city than the final asking price. We saw that happen last year in the spring and summer.

When the average asking price is lower than the average sale price that means that prices are going up rapidly. Often the highest home prices for the year hit in April. Current sale prices are 4% higher than they were last March.

Overall home sales were fairly low in March, mainly because there were not many houses on the market. There is a high demand for houses at the same time we have a low supply. This trend is likely to continue for several years.

table of home sales
March home sales St. Paul, MN

The numbers used to make the table were extracted from the NorthstarMLS representing a high percentage of local home sales. The numbers were gently sorted in an MS Excel spreadsheet. I included all condos, townhouses, and houses sold in the city limits of St. Paul during the month of March 2019. Rental properties and multiple unit dwellings were not included.

Data about local market conditions from prior months


Historic Firehouse

Hope Engine Company No. 3 fire station was built in 1872. A couple of years ago it was slated for demolition but the neighborhood was able to save it. The building has been repurposed and will be a wine bar. I have no idea when it is going to open but it is starting to look pretty nice on the outside and the inside looks kind of finished but it is hard to tell looking in from the outside.


firehouse 1

You might also notice in the recent picture there is a new building next to the firehouse. That is actually a Marriott hotel. The firehouse is on South Leech street and to the right in the pictures is Grand Avenue.

I am a fan of recycling, reusing and repurposing our historic buildings and homes. They really don’t build them like that anymore.