Plants just know

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. I grow a variety of house plants. Most of them are plants that will go outside for the summer in pots or in the garden.

During the fall as the days keep getting shorter, the plants stop growing or they grow more slowly. Some plants stop blooming.

As of today, we have 8 more minutes of daylight than there was on the shortest day of the year. My plants seem to notice this. My violets will soon bloom again and the mums I brought inside are blooming and the coleus that lost a few leaves is growing some more.

Now is the perfect time to feed those house plants and start planning the garden for 2020.

violet and coleus
Plants

Home prices went up 1.6%

The median home sale price in St. Paul in 2019 went up 1.6% from 2018. The Payne Phalen neighborhood had the largest sales price increases for the year at 11.7% and the West 7th neighborhood had the smallest increase at 0%.

In general, the neighborhoods with the lowest median home sale price saw the biggest year over year price increases. The trend has been consistent over the past several years. For 2020 I am predicting an overall median price increase for St. Paul of about 1%.

Look for more local residential real estate numbers on Monday, January 13th.

Median sale price chart
Median home sale price chart 2018-2019

The chart was created using Info Sparks and data from the Northstar MLS which is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. The chart was made using MSExcel.

If you would like to know how much your house might sell for contact me and I’ll get you some numbers.

The risk of loss clause

I ran into a Realtor who did not understand the “Risk of loss” clause in the standard purchase agreement. If the property is damaged after the final acceptance date on the contract but before the closing, the buyer has the option of canceling the contract.  The buyer must do so in writing and the buyer and seller must sign a cancellation and earnest monies are refunded to the buyer.

Damage can occur after a severe storm or maybe an accident. Some home repairs fail eventually, siding, roofs, furnaces, and water heaters wear out or malfunction.

There isn’t anything in the contract that would require the owner to make repairs either. Homebuyers should do a final walkthrough of the

fire fighters
firefighters

home before the closing. If something in the home has been damaged or is broken it should be addressed before closing.

Closing dates can be changed as needed with an agreement from both parties.

The risk of loss clause doesn’t specify the amount of damage that has to have happened to the property. If a home burns to the ground after an offer has been accepted but before the closing, the buyer does not have to proceed with the purchase.

If the roof develops a leak before the closing there are all kinds of remedies. One remedy is to put money in escrow for repairs. The seller can get a bid and have that amount of money withheld from the proceeds of the sale. The money can be held by the title company.

There is a myth out there that money held in escrow must be 1.5 times the amount needed to make the repairs. That is only true in some cases where the buyer’s lender asks that money be put in escrow to pay for repairs.

When choosing a real estate agent it is a good idea to find someone who has some experience. The unexpected can happen at any point in a real estate transaction. A good real estate agent can find solutions to any problem that arises. Having experience really helps. There are times though when the buyer or seller should consult an attorney.

Winter is the time to test for radon

January is national radon awareness month and the winter months are the perfect time to test for radon. You can do the test yourself, and right now radon test kits are discounted.

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.

Learn more from the Minnesota Department of Health

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

Important papers – keep or toss?

To his dying day, my dad was worried about what he called “important papers”. My parents kept a lot of paper that they did not need to keep and they worried about the safety and the documents.

Papers like birth certificates, social security cards, and marriage licenses should be kept but each can be replaced if needed. I like to know where my passport is and I keep it locked up with my social security card.

There isn’t any reason to keep old bills and “canceled checks” or tax records that are more than 7 years old.

Homeowners do not need any kind of paper to prove ownership. It is all filed with the county and when it is time to sell a title company will verify the records. Deeds and mortgages are registered with the county.

Abstracts of title should be kept but are not needed to prove ownership.

There are some records that do come in handy when selling a home. Maintenance records and repair records and even old invoices and receipts for home repairs, improvements or maintenance.

It is wonderful when we know how old the siding is or when the roof was put on. I actually keep a written journal too. I know how old the furnace and water heater are and can prove it.

Some “papers” take up a lot of space and have information on them that an identity thief would love. They can also be a fire hazard.

Using both of my paper shredders is took months to shred the documents my parents kept for decades.

I have a metal lockbox with the documents I kept. There are some birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, diplomas, baptismal certificates, and antique property deeds and a couple of antique mortgage records for real estate that no longer exists.

In all, I have 4 generations worth of “important papers”, in a box that holds about as much as two shoe boxes.

Maybe this is the year to get rid of some of the excess papers in your home so that your children don’t have to deal with them all one day. January is the perfect time to go through papers and do some purging.

 

 

Getting organized

icicles

January is the month for self-improvement and for getting organized.

Last January I  watched the Netflix series called “Tidying Up,” and learned all about tidying up and getting rid of items that don’t spark joy. The series was very popular last year and if you haven’t watched it you should.

On the show, Marie Kondo, who is also the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“, teaches us how to use the “KonMari” method of folding clothes and organizing our homes.

She teaches people to touch their belongings and decide if they spark joy. If they don’t spark joy we are encouraged to thank the item and add it to the pile of the donate or discard pile.

After watching the show I reorganized my dresser and clothes closet. I have to say I was pleased with the results and it is so easy to maintain that it is still organized.

This fall I reorganized the bathroom closet and the junk under the bathroom sink. It looks amazing and was worth the effort.

Over the past five years or so I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff I was storing and because I have less stuff and I buy less stuff I know what I have more storage space.

For people who plan on moving or who want to downsize these cold winter months are the perfect time to get started. Choose a closet or a set of drawers. having less and having it organized makes moving much easier.