New Vs. Used

Several years ago I wrote an article for a real estate news website about how new construction isn’t greener. Old houses can be retrofitted to be more energy efficient. Tearing a house down is a huge waste of resources. Building a new house is expensive and resource intensive.

Houses in St. Paul get torn down and that makes housing more expensive because we don’t have enough of it and are not building more. There are vacant lots all over the city. Most are purchased by adjacent neighbors and used to grow grass or for a garage or for gardens or all three.

The city of St. Paul condemns houses stating that there are multiple code violations. The owners are not permitted to live in the houses. These houses are singled out for special treatment. They undergo multiple inspections by city inspectors and must be brought up to code.  See The city of St. Paul is cruel to the elderly

As these houses sit with the owner’s belongings still in them they can slowly rot away and may eventually be torn down. The owners will have to pay for a $5000 dollar permit and of course, the $550 so that the city can find all items that are not up to code.  If they have any money left over after paying the fines and thousands in property taxes they may be able to fix up the house.

If you are familiar with St. Paul you know that are housing stock it very old.  The city-wide median age is 100 years old which means half the houses in the city are older than that. Building codes continually change and most of our houses are not up to 2023 building code.

The demand for housing is high. We really can not afford to lose more single-family homes. Destroying housing isn’t good for the environment nor is it could for the future of the city. Next time you hear about a home slated for demolition in your community contact your district council and fight to save the house. In doing so you will help save St. Paul.

Current rules and laws have not kept up with the aging population and things are going to get worse unless we make some changes. We need to figure out how to save the houses and help the owners. Houses can be repaired, restored, and even retrofitted.


Houses that were vacant but are now missing


The city of St. Paul is cruel to the elderly

How to make a lot vacant

In St. Paul, someone can complain to the city about your property. Maybe they think your grass is too long. Maybe they don’t like you or the way you look. Maybe they want to buy your house and see that you are struggling to maintain it.

Someone complained about a barking dog at my house but we didn’t have a dog.

Another time someone complained about too many cats in our yard. We did not have a cat at the time.

Code enforcement in St. Paul is complaint driven. That means that the city does not pay attention to code violations unless someone complains.

The city can condemn a house. There used to be reports that we could see online through St. Paul property look-up that would show what was wrong with the house. They don’t do that anymore.

After a time and it depends upon the inspector a house can be condemned by the city and after that, the city can make it a registered vacant building and charge $5000 for a permit. There isn’t any consistency in this process. It can go on for months or for a decade.

Elderly homeowners on fixed incomes struggle to make repairs without the added burden of fines from the city.  If the fee isn’t paid it gets attached to the already sky-high property taxes They end up living in a car on the property or in a tent near the property because they are not allowed to live in the house.

In order to get the house uncondemned they must pay for a city inspection. City inspectors will go through the house and inspect it and create a list of repairs needed for code compliance.  If the owner doesn’t have the house inspected it can sit vacant and condemned for years.

The vacant building permit fee is $5000. That money could be used to fix up the property or to provide housing for homeowners who are not allowed to live in their own homes. At the very least the $5000 should cover an inspection that outlines exactly why the house is condemned.

The forced registered vacant building program does nothing to improve our housing stock. In fact, some of these houses rot as no one is allowed to live in the house. The program does not help improve housing safety for homeowners. In fact, I know of one situation where the elderly homeowner spent Christmas Eve sleeping in his car in sub-zero weather.

The only people I know who own condemned houses that they are not allowed to live in are over 70 years old.

These condemned category 2 houses may even be fit to live in. We don’t really know because the process lacks consistency and transparency. In fact, the city may be violating fair housing laws. I occasionally see houses that are filled with junk and have not been cleaned in years that are not condemned. The system is compliant-driven and lacks transparency.

City inspectors encourage owners of these properties to sell. The new owner would be responsible for the repairs.  Is there an age limit on homeownership?

Eventually, the owners have to sell or it is taken from them by a bank or for back taxes.  Sometimes the vacant property disintegrates to the point where it has to be torn down.

More often than not seniors who have lived in their homes for decades do not want to leave. In fact, I can’t think of anything that is more cruel forcing an elderly person to leave their home.

Homelessness among the elderly used to be rare now it is the fastest-growing group.

There has to be a better way!

Is this a good time to sell?

wooden houses

I get asked this question all the time. “is this a good time to sell my house?” The answer is yes.  Homes are selling despite the high-interest rates (over 6.5%). We are seeing cash buyers and buyers who are using home loans.

Houses are selling at a brisk pace in St. Paul. On average sellers are getting more than the asking price and multiple offers are common. Houses are on the market for an average of 10 to 12 days on market.

The question that is harder to answer is: “Is this a good time to buy a house?”  For people who like to pay interest and don’t mind the debt, I would say it is a no-brainer.

If the alternative is renting, on the one hand, rents are high, on the other hand, renters have more flexibility.

The hot, dry smokey summer of 2023

I recently visited a home buyer client that I worked with last year. He moved to St. Paul from California.  He was moving away from the sky-high home prices and the fires.

He told me that the smoky air that we have been experiencing isn’t nearly as bad as what he experienced in California.

Something to think about as we go through another smoke-filled day.

Smoke from Canadian wildfires

St. Paul housing supply and demand in 2023

Is this a good time to sell your house? The short answer is yes and this is why:

  1. The Months Supply of Inventory is currently at 1.02. This metric indicates how long it would take for all the homes currently on the market to sell, assuming no new listings are added. A lower number is generally considered good for sellers as it means there is less competition and higher demand for homes.
  2. The 12-Month Change in Months of Inventory is currently at -17.07%. This metric shows how much the Months Supply of Inventory has changed over the last 12 months. A negative percentage is a good sign for sellers as it means there is a decreasing supply of homes on the market.
  3. The Median Days Homes are on the market for an average of 13 days. In other words, homes are selling quickly. Often we put them on the market on a Thursday and the owners have a few offers to choose from my Sunday.
  4. The List to Sold Price Percentage is currently at 103.4%. This metric indicates how much of the original listing price homes are selling for.  Sellers are getting their asking price and more.
  5. The Median Sold Price is currently at $295,000. This metric shows the middle price point of homes that have sold in the area. This number is still rising.

Overall, these metrics indicate a strong seller’s market with low inventory, quick sales, and high prices.

Months supply of homes for sale
Months supply of homes for sale in St. Paul

Why is there a shortage of homes for sale? Two reasons:

  1. Fewer homes are being built since the housing market crash in 2009-2011. At the same time, there are more households now than there were then.
  2. Many current homeowners have mortgages with low interest and are unwilling to move up to higher rates.