Do I really this app?

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun . .  especially Fridays before holiday weekends. There was a time when I was into downloading apps for my phone. I am so over that. It seems like every business that I deal with has an app I can download. Often the app takes the place of information that can easily be found on the internet using a smartphone or computer.

A couple of weeks ago we had to replace our washer. The new washer like many new appliances these days can connect to the internet. I don’t want my washer to be hacked so I leave it offline when not in use. 🙂

Here is a screenshot from my last load of wash:

app screenshot
Washer app

I like having the alert on my phone so that I know when the load is done, I like to keep things moving along. The app is animated and shows exactly what the washer is doing real-time.  It is soothing to watch because the water sloshes back and forth. My inner geek couldn’t resist at least trying it out.

Old and new and good for the city

old brick building and new apartment building
Panama Flats and Irvine Exchange apartments

Right next to downtown St. Paul in an area we used to call the “seam”  in-between Downtown and the West 7th neighborhood there is a new apartment building, the Irvine Exchange apartments. The piece of land is a traffic island with busy streets on all sides. The older building in the foreground in Panama Flats which is an old row house converted into condos.

For a city to grow and thrive there has to be a mix of old and new. The new apartments rent for up to a little over 6K a month. It looks like the more affordable units were rented out right away. $1,126 for 367 square feet which would easily fit inside of the first floor of my home.

There has been a lot of development in the West 7th area near downtown since the great recession. There are new hotels and more places that serve beer.

Fair housing and deed covenants

There is a display in the lobby of the Saint Paul Area Association of Realtors (SPAAR) called owning up. The display is based on the “Mapping Prejudice” project that maps racist deed restriction in Minneapolis. In 2018, the SPAAR diversity committee partnered with the Mapping Prejudice Project from the University of Minnesota. This research shows the connection between restrictive covenants and disparities in levels of homeownership.

In some neighborhoods, developers put restrictions on deeds so that homes could only be sold to white people. Here is an example:

“ E. No persons of any race other than the Aryan race shall use or occupy any building or any lot, except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race domiciled with an owner or tenant.” – from a Hennepin County deed

The restrictions were put in place during the first part of the 20th century.

The mapping project shows that the city is segregated today and that it became segregated because of the deed restrictions. Realtors played a role in that and that is what we are owning up to:

1924 COE
Realtor Code of ethics – 1924

People actually believed that people of certain races, nationalities or religions could harm a neighborhood and bring down property values.

Here in the twin cities we currently have the largest racial gap in homeownership rates in the nation with 76% of white households owning homes compared with 22% of black households owning homes. Owning up explores some of the root causes of those disparities.

Eventually, Ramsey County deeds will be examined too and it is likely that some deed will have racial restrictions in them.  My guess is that they can be found in the newer parts of the city closer to the edges. The center of the city was developed in the 1800s. The neighborhoods with the most expensive housing and the best schools are populated by mostly white people.

As a real estate agent/broker/company I am not allowed to recommend a neighborhood or steer someone toward one neighborhood or another. When I list a house for sale I can not make sure that a certain kind of buyer buys the home. The right buyer for any house is the buyer who can pay for the house.

 

Owning up on display at SPAAR – 325 Roselawn Avenue E. St. paul.

 

When the buyer backs out

This year we are noticing an uptick in home buyers making an offer on a home for sale and then backing out during the insection phase. 

Often buyers do not have much of a chance to look at or think about their purchase. Houses sell quickly and often get multiple offers. Sometimes they make offers on a house and then as they have time to think about it get cold feet.

Usually, the house can be put right back on the market and if there were multiple offers the seller can accept another buyers offer. Home sellers can and should keep collecting offers until the sale closes.

I wish buyers wouldn’t back out and the best advice I can offer is if possible buyers should ask for a second showing to see the property again before actually making an offer. Most of the time when the buyer backs out there isn’t anything wrong with the house itself, the problem is with the buyer.

There really isn’t any way that home sellers can prevent a buyer from backing out. Even buyers who offer a lot of earnest money will occasionally back out but usually before their earnest money is at risk.

Sometimes home buyers will ask for a lot of repairs as a way to back out of a purchase. I had some buyers that did that a few years back. Instead of telling me that another home was on the market that they liked better they came up with a lengthy list of repairs and upgrades.  When the sellers said no they canceled the purchase and go their earnest money back.

Fall might be better for homebuyers

I got kind of excited when I noticed that the number of houses on the market in St. Paul has crossed the 600 mark. We haven’t seen that since November of 2017.  That by no means signals the end of the seller’s market. but it is an indication that the seller’s market may be weakening a bit.

We used to see more homes on the market in the spring than in late summer or early fall. It is beginning to look like we will see an increase in the number of homes for sale. Closed home sales have been trending downward the past few years but that is only because there have been fewer homes for sale.

With interest rates back down to all-time lows maybe the next few months will be a little better for home buyers.

The world of home improvement contractors

roof
Roof – Not my roof

I live in an old house and it has an old roof that has been leaking on and off between and after repairs for some time now. It is time for a new roof. I know people who roof houses so I make some calls and get some people to give me a bid for a new roof.

There are a few other things the house needs but I am learning to keep my mouth shut about that and do one thing at a time.

Maybe my standards are too high. After all, I have been supporting my family for some time working as a salesperson on a 100% commission basis.

The first salesperson spent most of our time together answering questions that I didn’t have. My husband and I were forced to listen as he would not deviate from his script.  He did provide a written estimate but did not share any measurements. I ended up getting my own measurements so that I have a clue.

After his pitch, he wanted to know if he could wait out on the porch while we made a decision. He even promised a discount for an on the spot decision because making one less trip to our house would save him money.

We pretty much ruled the contractor out because we don’t want to see him three more times and we intensely dislike sales pitches and high-pressure sales tactics.

Another person we met with we called because they do roofs and windows. We asked them questions about replacement windows and they refused to give us any bids on the windows because it was a window company that recommended them to me. The reason why they were recommended is because they also do storm windows, the company that recommended them does not.

The salesperson believes he is being “ethical” since I want more than one bid and at that point, I didn’t have any bids I thought he was being a jerk. He actually told me that the company in question doesn’t do a very good job.  I would never talk to a potential client the way he talked to me. When I am asked to do something I think is unethical I just say no and I won’t bad mouth a competitor, not ever.

Another contractor stopped by at or invitation and actually brought a ladder and a roofer with. I didn’t have to ask about vents and gutters and flashing. He told me about it all and answered most of my questions before I even asked.  They promptly sent an estimate that was lower and far more complete than those of their competitors.

When they left our house my husband and I both felt better a little less worried and more confident about re-roofing.

When I meet with homeowners I like to be positive and assure them that I can do the work. People are far more interested in their own house and their own needs than they are in my company. I like to leave them a little information about who I am but I don’t use a script. There is no one size fits all script for every situation.

I would never make someone wait for an answer to a question while I give a sales pitch. I try to keep my focus on the needs of the homeowner because it is about them. They have a lot of choices because there are too many real estate agents in the area and many who can do an excellent job. In fact, it is a privilege and an honor to be invited into someone’s home.

Does anyone really like to be sold to? I don’t think so. I know from experience that there are ways to promote my services without ever using a hard sell, talking down to someone or being a jerk. When I offer my “free no-obligation consultation” I mean it and so do all agents affiliated with my company.

The clock is ticking and we need a roof before the ice dam season. We are waiting for three more estimates and hope that the company we choose can actually re-roof the house.

Some of the storm windows that are falling apart but I think we can make it another year which is probably how long it will take me to find someone who can do the work without being a jerk.