My house comes with buckthorn

Buckthorn is on the Minnesota DNR’s list of restricted noxious weeds. It is an invasive species that was imported from Europe and used for hedges. There are still homes in St. Paul with buckthorn hedges. I wonder if the homeowners are even aware of it.

Goats were hired to eat the buckthorn growing in Indian Mounds Park. They seem to be the only natural enemy the plant has.

I found some buckthorn in my yard and my neighbors are growing a large buckthorn bush along a fence. I see it along some of the bike trails in Lilydale regional park too. The way to get rid of buckthorn is to pull it out and dig out the roots, it isn’t easy to remove.

The plant is fairly easy to identify. When in doubt look for thorns at the base of the leaves where they join the stem.

Buckthorn plants that are two inches in diameter or larger are best controlled by cutting the stem at the soil surface and then covering or treating the stump to prevent re-sprouting. Cutting can be effectively done with hand tools (for a few plants), chain saws, or brush cutters.

The Minnesota DNR has a lot of information about the plant and how to remove it. You will need a permit to have goats in your St. Paul yard but I suppose that is an option too.

I have never seen buckthorn listed on the seller’s disclosure but I think disclosing noxious weeds is a good idea.

Buckthorn Bush



The natives that grow in my garden

If it Friday and Fridays are for fun. I have a few native plants in my yard. The native columbine is one of my favorites. It likes to grow on the rocky river bluffs which pretty much describes my yard. The plant likes areas with some sun. I have never planted them but let them grow where they want to grow.  They just started blooming and will continue to do so for another month or so.






Preparing your home for inspection

I always recommend having a complete home inspection when buying or selling a house. I believe it protects the buyers and the sellers.  Here are a few little things

Old window

homeowners can do to get the house ready for an inspection that can make a big difference.

  1. Remove the old parts the contractor left by the furnace or water heater. Extra worn-out parts may be misinterpreted.
  2. Make sure every light fixture in the house has a working light bulb in it. Inspectors may suggest a fixture isn’t working if the bulb is burned out.
  3. If I had a fuse box I would remove any old and all-new extra fuses and put them away.
  4. Clean the surfaces of the water heater and furnace.
  5. Make sure all screens are on the windows.
  6. Make sure all windows open and close.
  7. Check under every sink and remove any buckets under sinks so that inspectors do not assume a past or present leak. If the bucket is indeed catching leaking water leave the bucket in place and make sure the leak is noted on the seller’s disclosure.
  8. Make sure all electrical outlets and light switches have covers. If they don’t buy some and install them.
  9. If extension cords are being used due to lack of outlets disconnect and remove the extension cords.

Home inspectors are not licensed or really regulated in Minnesota. Sometimes they overstep their area of expertise. I have had inspectors state that heating plants need to be replaced when they just needed a repair. I have had inspectors suggest that all of the windows in a house should be replaced. If the buyer makes such a request it is best for that buyer to buy new construction and to find another buyer.

The houses in St. Paul are old and most have old windows. Newer windows are not always better than older windows either.

Real estate agents and inspectors have all sorts of ideas about what will or will not pass an FHA inspection/appraisal. They are wrong most of the time. Peeling paint is usually an issue but circuit breakers and old windows are not. Read up on FHA guidelines.

Wanted, Minnesota homes for sale

Infographic of MN housing market
Minnesota housing market

The graphic is a bit misleading with all of those arrows pointing up. I would not describe the current housing market as healthy or good. It isn’t surprising that home sales and new listings are up from a year ago when we were under a  pandemic lock-down. In some parts of Minnesota, there was a 70% increase in home sales. In the seven-county metro area, sales are up 9.4% from April 2020, new listings are up 24% and prices are up 7.4%. Southwest Central MN saw a decline in home sales.

It is surprising though that the number of homes on the market has dropped by 52% since last April leaving us with a one-month supply. In April of 2020, there were 17,634 homes on the market in the state, in April of 2021 there were just 8,519. There were also over 22000 Realtors in Minnesota in April.

It will be interesting to see how the year shakes out. I predict that the number of homes on the market will go up in the second and third quarter as people have more confidence in vaccines and in the economy.

If you have a house you are interested in selling we do have plenty of buyers.


Looking for a condo?

Houses don’t stay on the market for very long these days but condos stay on the market twice as long especially if they are in downtown St. Paul. We have seen this trend before. It is a cycle but the good news is those downtown condos are selling more quickly than they did during the last cycle.

Owners of single-family homes that are not condos can expect an offer or two the first week on the market.  For downtown condos, it may take more than a month. I can’t remember a time when downtown condos were selling faster than other types of housing in St. Paul. They have always taken longer to sell. Downtown has been quiet this year because of the pandemic but that is slowly changing now that more people are getting vaccinated.

This might be the perfect opportunity for those who plan in downsizing from a house to a condo.


Houses – median cumulative days on market
down town St. Paul condos

It is just advertising

There is a sign in the neighborhood with a picture of a real estate agent on it. It says that he is number one in the neighborhood. I didn’t recognize the name or the face even though I have lived in the neighborhood for 39 years.

I have no idea what number one means innumber 1 this context, so I did some research. I looked in the MLS and the agent has sold a few houses in the neighborhood but is fairly new and I can honestly say I have sold more houses in the neighborhood.

Misleading advertising is against a standard of practice in the Realtor Code of ethics. Yet the real estate industry is full of what I’ll call tricky advertising because if I call it misleading that will open a can of worms that could keep me busy for months.

Is claiming to be number one misleading? Being number one is vague and hard to prove or disprove which is why there are so many number one real estate agents. What are they number one in? Why aren’t there any number two agents?

When it comes to being number one we could count transactions or sales dollar volume.

The agent who sells the most homes usually has a higher number of canceled and expired listings too and is often slower to answer the phone and sometimes clients end up working with a low paid but efficient assistant instead of with the agent.

If you meet with a real estate agent who claims to be number one ask a lot of questions.

Our clients are always number one.