As the year 2020 comes to a close

sunrise downtown St Paul
Sunrise in St. Paul, MN

I may stay awake to welcome in 2021 or maybe just to make sure 2020 is gone. New years eve is best celebrated 2020 style by staying home and maybe having a ZOOM new Year’s eve party. Reading a book or watching a movie works too.

The picture of the sunrise was taken on January 1sr 2018.  Taking a picture at sunrise is my prefered way to ring in the new year.

How ever you choose to celebrate please do so safely. We have a few things to look forward to in 2021. A vaccine for COVID-19 and a new president.

Happy New Year!

Loan forbearance programs during the pandemic

During the great recession, we had foreclosures and short sales. As I recall there were loan modification programs for borrowers but the rules kept changing about who was eligible and who was not. Sometimes people who were behind on mortgage payments were eligible and sometimes they were not.

During the current crisis and it is a crisis there are forbearance programs and various laws that prevent foreclosure.  Forbearance programs allow borrowers to skip payments. The payments are added to the end of the loan repayment period.

There is help for those who are struggling to make mortgage payments. The Minnesota Homeownership Center is a great place to start. They are a non-profit and provide free counseling and are generally knowledgeable about every program out there that can help homeowners.

As always be aware of scams. I am not aware of the latest but I know there are always people out there ready to trick people out of their homes and life savings. If a program sounds too good to be true the Minnesota Homeownership Center can help with that and the Minnesota Attorney General’s website has some useful information on it about scams.

Don’t be afraid to talk directly to your lender if that is possible. If you have n FHA loan there may be federal assistance. Serious mortgage delinquencies are up from a year ago. the last number I saw was at around 7% as compared with less than 4% last year.

How is your furnace?

The weather has me thinking about the furnace. We bought a new one back in 2014. The older models can last a long time. Most are not as energy-efficient as today’s models but they will heat your house.

Some of the companies that service boilers and furnaces are quick to suggest buying a new one when a part is all that is needed. Do a little research and get a second opinion before you replace your furnace or boiler.

Here is a collage of old furnaces and boilers that are still hard at work in St. Paul homes.  There are some fine old heating plants in the picture. The furnace that is pictured on the top and in the center is an ancient gravity furnace. They can take up most of the basement.

If you are buying a home with an older unit in it I recommend having the furnace or boiler tuned and certified by a licensed HVAC specialist. The best time to have a furnace put in is during the cooling season. The oldest boiler dates back to the 1920s.

Even though central heating seems essential for Minnesota homes there are a few in St. paul that do not have it.

Furnace collage

Working from home still hasn’t really caught on

There are a lot of people working from home these days. Some have moved to remote locations or are planning such a move because they no longer need to live within a reasonable commute to where they work.

They are confident that they will always have the same employer or that their next job will also be work from home. Working from home isn’t new and the technology to make it possible has been around for a couple of decades yet people still go to offices to work.

It might be too soon to plan a lifestyle built around telecommuting, it may not become mainstream.

Here is a “work-from-home forecast”, compiled by the National Association of Realtors. The current 21% is as a result of the pandemic, and that will carry into 2021.

Work from home

The consensus forecast is the compiled median response of 23 economic and housing market experts. It is an educated guess about distance working. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that by 2025 the percentage of people working from home will be back to single-digit percentages, but will be up from 6% in 2019.

In the real estate industry having office space is a big recruiting tool. Some of it has to do with the need that people have for connecting with other people.

There are employers who believe that people need to be in the same room to work together. I think with a little imagination people can work together without being in the same room.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to work from a cabin up north somewhere but I couldn’t give up the internet connection I have here in the city. Last February I upgraded my internet connection and bought a new cable modem too.

 

Merry Christmas 2020

For Christmas Eve I thought I would share another picture from the before time. This is of Rice Park in downtown St. Paul. It was taken in November of 2011 before the snow arrived and as I recall we had a lot of snow that year.

The park was remodeled in 2018 and has fewer trees. The large tree was brought in for the holidays and we will probably see it again in 2021.

Merry Christmas.

Rice Park – Downtown St. Paul

Are you ready for snow?

Snowy street in St. Paul

We really haven’t had much winter weather except for what we had last October.  I have enjoyed walking on sidewalks that are free of snow and ice. If we get snow today that will all change. There are homeowners and businesses that never shovel.

The city has various pedestrian plans.  You can find them on the Stpaul.gov web site where it says:

“Saint Paul is a walking city. We are more healthy, resilient, and connected because walking is safe and appealing for all.”

Walking on icy sidewalks where snow is allowed to accumulate all winter is anything but safe.

St. Paul property owners are required to remove snow from the sidewalk along within 24 hours of when it fell. There are no exceptions for vacant houses or businesses.

Here are some sidewalk shoveling tips from the city:

Shoveling Tips

  • Shovel sidewalks on all sides of your property, the full width of the sidewalk down to the bare pavement.
  • Remove all ice from sidewalks. After the sidewalk is clear, sprinkling a little sand can help prevent slipping on frosty sidewalks.
  • Pile snow onto your yard and boulevard. It’s against the law to shovel snow into streets and alleys.
  • If you have a corner property, clear curb cuts at corners and crosswalks to the street gutter. You are not required to clear snow ridges or piles left by plows beyond the gutter–City crews sometimes return to do that but if they can’t your neighbors would appreciate it if you could clear an opening and get through.

The city also has a video about removing snow from walkways.

Sidewalk violations can be reported to the city. Go to Stpaul.gov and type “shoveling sidewalks” in the search bar. I would leave a link but the city re-arranges the website often making the links useless after a month or two.