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 – 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.


State Fair 2019 Edition

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. I go to the Minnesota State Fair about once every five years and this was my year. I went early in the morning on opening day. By the time I left in the early afternoon, it was pretty crowded.

Minnesota State Fair

Our State Fair is an experience. I can remember attending as a child and I can remember bringing my own children. It changes a little every year but somehow remains the same too. I generally avoid eating anything deep fried even if it is on a stick. I ended up having a pretzel and an ice cream cone for lunch. I walked a total of 7.5 miles and took a few pictures. I did check out the home improvement building, the horticultural building, and the grandstand.

I visited the Mighty Midway as all fair attendees should.  One of my favorite places to visit is the creative activities building. I got there before the crowds and looked at the quilts and the baked goods and more.

Just outside the creative activities building is a display of horses made from yarn. Where else can a person see a horse made of yarn?

yarn horse
Horse outside the creative arts building.

I’ll probably attend the fair again in 2024. It will be different than it was this year but it will be the same too.

State fair and home improvement time

Nothing like the Minnesota State Fair and it starts today and ends on Labor Day. I go to the fair every three to five years. Our state fair is the largest in the county by average daily attendance and the second largest in the country by total attendance. It is a big deal and if you have never been you should go.

State Fair time is also a great time to check around for sales. I have purchased major appliances at fair time and gotten some great deals. Also look for siding, window and roofing sales. Visit the home improvement building at the State Fair.  I love the Creative activities building too. There really is something for everyone at the Fair.

For me, the best days to go to the fair are the first couple of days when everything is still fresh. The hundreds of thousands of people tend to trample everything down. Going after dark or getting there when it opens is fun too. The State Fair changes a little every year but never really changes. I still remember going with my parents and grandparents when I was 5 years old. The fairgrounds are full of memories and colorful too.

minnesota state fair