Real local numbers now

1st quarter Home Sales St. Paul, MN

Yes it is true that home sales in 2015 for the first quarter are up significantly from the first quarter of 2008 which is the year some consider to be the last year before the housing market crash. First quarter home sales were down significantly in 2015 from the peak years 2005 and 2006.

I have been reading the real estate numbers for the first quarter of 2015 and the accompanying media blasts and have decided that they are overly optimistic. Maybe I just don’t understand math but I honestly believe that the lack of homes on the market is holding back the still recovering real estate market and that yes we are in a strong sellers market but I think the Realtor® associations are painting a picture that is a little rosier than reality, at least for Saint Paul.

A smaller number of homes on the market is causing prices to move upward, which is nice for homeowners but is it good for home buyers? Is it sustainable? A healthier housing market would be one that is a bit more balanced between buyers and sellers which can not happen until because there are not enough sellers.

The numbers on the chart were extracted from the NorthstarMLS which has sales data that is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. I put the numbers in an MS Excel spreadsheet to create the graph I have published. These are local numbers for the city of Saint Paul Minnesota and represent the closed sales of single family homes during the first quarter of every year for the last ten years including townhouses and condominiums.

The data does not include rental or commercial property. These are actual closed home sales. Maybe that is a different way of looking at it but I think the number is important.

As always I am happy to show my math if it will help.


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When I search for real estate information I don’t find much about how closings work in Minnesota.  In other states when a house is sold “escrow opens” the process takes place over a period of time and when it is completed the seller gets a check and the buyer gets some keys. Here in Minnesota we close at the table.  Buyers and sellers meet for an hour and sign papers and a check is cut for the sellers and they give the buyers the keys.  It doesn’t have to work that way.  We have closings without buyers or sellers or either.

Closings often take place at title company offices and the title company does all the work.  They check for pending assessments and they examine the title to make sure that the sellers really own the property and that they can give sellers clear title.   

Some real estate companies also own title companies.  Buyers always have a choice and do not have to use the title company that is affiliated with the real estate company and sometimes sellers that are builders or banks will give buyers a discount or free title insurance for using the sellers title company. 

Buyers are supposed to receive a final statement from their lender at least a day before the closing that shows how much money the buyer will need to pay for the home and how much money they will need to bring to the closing. It is all itemized.  

The title companies charge fees for doing all the work and for doing the actual closing.  When buyers and sellers attend the closing they mostly sign papers.  There is far more for the buyers than there is for the sellers.  The buyers are basically closing on a loan and their biggest closing cost is usually a loan origination fee.  For sellers the biggest cost of selling is usually the real estate commissions.

Closings are usually stress free and often buyers and sellers exchange contact information. There really isn’t any reason why a real estate transaction has to be adversarial and most are not. 

Real estate agents often go to the closing but are rarely needed because by then our work is done.  Most of us only get paid after a successful closing so if something goes wrong during the transaction we usually don’t get paid for our services. 

What repairs to request

 I encourage all buyers to have a complete home inspection but when it is all done some are sure that they want to ask to have every little thing fixed and other buyers ask for almost nothing.  

Some repairs do seem ridiculous but having a furnace repaired so that it works or having a leaky pipe fixed does not seem ridiculous. . . and when I use the word ridiculous I am using it in the old school way not in the 2010 overused urban dictionary way. 

Making an offer on an older home and then asking to have all the windows replaced seems a bit over the top.  Sometimes I have buyers

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who are looking for craftsman style homes built in 1910 to 1940 and expect them to have modern electrical systems where all of the electrical outlets are grounded.  Often after sellers have owned a home and lived in it for a couple of decades with two pronged outlets they don’t see having them changed over to grounded outlets for the buyers as a priority to have done before they leave. There are some things that a home has to have like working plumbing and in Minnesota a working furnace or boiler is required. Personally I believe that if something . . just about anything in a home leaks the sellers should fix it unless it is a family member and in that case they should take it with. 

Buyers should keep in mind that sellers do not always have the money needed to make repairs.  Sellers should understand that often home buyers are strapped for cash and can not afford to have repairs made and buy a home all at the same time . . yet buyers need to know that there will be repairs in the future and they should budget for them. 

Sellers can say no to any repair that the buyers ask for and the buyers can cancel the purchase agreement during the inspection period and find another home if the inspection reveals too many issues.  

The point of the inspection is for the buyers to know what they are buying and it also protects the sellers somewhat because the inspector is finding the problems that could upset the buyers if they found out after they owned the home. 

Sellers you will not get your asking price

 Buyers are never sure how much to offer on a home.  I like to figure out what the value of the home is and suggest that they base their offer on that. 

Most sellers know that they won’t get their asking price.  I made this little chart of list prices vs. asking price from data in out MLS for the St. Paul homes for the last few years.  The MLS has data for most of the homes bought and sold in these parts and the data is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. 

Buyers are very cautious these days and so are lenders and appraisers.  No one wants to pay too much for a home.

List price vs sale price St. Paul, MN
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Actual numbers for the bar chart

March 2012 homes sales

The data used to create the chart comes form the North Star MLS. The data is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. . . .which is alright because there are no guarantees in life. These numbers are for single family homes which includes condos in St. Paul, Minnesota for the month ending March 31, 2012.

The average home sale price is up as is the median which is now a six digit number at $113,500 which is up from last month when it was a five digit number but I can’t find the number at the moment so just trust me.

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March 2012

The inventory of homes on the market remains low.  The only surprise in this data is that the number of pending sales is down from last month and I would have expected them to be up because generally March is a better month for home sales than february is.  The number could mean that the spring market has already lost it’s spring but one months worth of data usually doesn’t mean all that much.  

Pending sales are up from the same time last year which is a good thing because we hit a new bottom last year and it wouldn’t be the bottom if the numbers were lower this year.  Average an median prices are up from last month and up slightly  from a year ago.

Remember that real estate is local and if you are looking for more local numbers please check local market conditions and home prices. 

St. Paul Home Prices and sales by neighborhood

 I am not sure how it happened bur I missed January which is weird because it is a big cold month and hard to miss.  here are some statisitcs for January home sales in St. Paul, Minnesota.  

The data used to create the chart comes form the North Star MLS.  The data is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.   We will have numbers for February sometime next week.

Home prices are about what they were in January of 2011.  The number of home sales is up from a year ago but about the same as it has been for the past three months.  Real estate is local and these numbers may not reflect what it going on in your area.

The inventory of homes on the market continues to decline, there are about 25% fewer homes on the market today than there were a year ago.  Prices are being held down by sluggish demand and the large number of below market value foreclosures on the market.  

January 2012

For more reports and local real estate numbers check the Local Market Conditions & Home prices category.