Know where the snakes live

The presence of garter snakes can ruin a person’s enjoyment of their home.

I have lived in the West 7th neighborhood for most of my life. The block we live on is on the river bluff and the limestone is just beneath the soil. Garter snakes love it because the soil is warmer. It isn’t at all unusual to see a few garter snakes sunning themselves on the basement window sills.

Occasionally a snake gets in the house. They can’t climb but they can fall in. They are not poisonous, they don’t have teeth and they usually slither away when someone comes near. They eat frogs, small mammals, earthworms, and insects.

Fear or dislike of snakes is common and some people have ophiophobia, which is an irrational fear of snakes. I can’t recommend the part of the West 7th neighborhood along the river bluff to people who suffer from ophiophobia.

There have been people who bought houses in the neighborhood but could not live in them. In one case the buyer bought the home during the winter and didn’t see a snake until several months later.

It is a good idea to make a note on the seller’s disclosure about the garter snakes and encourage prospective buyers to read up on local garter snakes before making a commitment.

It would be nice if there were a box to check on the Minneota Realtors seller’s disclosure. It should also be noted on the St. Paul truth in housing inspection.

The snakes can be found anywhere in Minnesota and throughout St. Paul.

It is fall and the bugs are back

Box elder bugs are black with red stripes and they are everywhere. They like to hang out on the side of the house on a sunny afternoon. They are harmless or so the experts say. They don’t bite or carry disease. I don’t like having them in my house and I have no idea how they are getting in but I don’t imagine they need much of an opening.

If you belong to “Nextdoor” or a Facebook neighborhood group you will find posts from people asking about the bugs.

There is one home remedy that will kill them without harming bees or butterflies or anything else.  Put some water in a spray bottle with a squirt of dish soap or laundry detergent. If it doesn’t work you didn’t put in enough.  The mixture doesn’t kill the bugs on contact but they will die.

However, there are so many of the critters I fear it is a losing battle. A person could go out and buy some kind of poison to kill the bugs but that seems like a waste of money.

The first hard frost will kill some of them off but some will get inside and survive. This is the time of year when various critters work hard to get into your house to stay warm.

Do your homework without my help

St. Paul, Minnesota

It is a common misconception that a REALTOR can recommend a neighborhood. Recommending a neighborhood is a fair housing violation.

I can’t imagine choosing a school based upon a Realtor’s recommendation. Most of us are not experts when it comes to education but since you asked my own children did well in the public schools but they learned a lot at home too.

Often home buyers will ask if a house is in a “decent” neighborhood. REALTORS can not answer that question, and “decent” is pretty vague. There are people who tell me that a neighborhood is “bad”.  Like “decent”, “bad” can mean just about anything.

There are homebuyers who choose neighborhoods based on what they can afford or how close it is to where they work or to family or to a place of worship.

Some homebuyers can choose any neighborhood while others can only afford the houses in a couple neighborhoods. People with more money have more choices.

There are people who want to live in walkable neighborhoods but I have found that definitions of walkable vary considerably. For me, anything within a mile is within easy walking distance. If I didn’t have a car I could get by pretty easily on foot, or by bike or public transportation, or Lyft.

REALTORS can not “steer” people into a neighborhood or recommend a neighborhood.

The restaurants and shops that I like might not be the same as the ones that you like yet I am expected to make recommendations.

There are plenty of resources and maps on the internet that provides useful information that can help home buyers choose a neighborhood. Driving, biking, or walking through a neighborhood can help buyers narrow the search. Some homebuyers research schools before choosing a neighborhood while others look at crime rates.

The City of St. Paul website has neighborhood information. Each neighborhood has a district council. Learning more about the neighborhood council is a great way to learn more about the neighborhood.

When choosing a neighborhood is important to consider housing stock in that neighborhood. People looking to buy a rambler should not be looking in the downtown area and people looking for a Victorian-era Queen Anne style might find one in Highland Park but there are so few that the likelihood of finding one on the market is slim.

I definitely know people who love St. Paul but they have only experienced a small part of it. It is the same for some of the people who don’t like it.

Multi-generation housing made more popular during the pandemic

According to the National Association of Realtors buyers purchasing multi-generational homes during the pandemic rose to a new high of 15%, The number has been tracked for less than a decade.

Pre-pandemic there was an even split between buyers who purchased a multi-generational home for aging parents and for adult children boomeranging back or never leaving. Now the top reason to purchase a multi-generational home is for aging parents to move into the home.

During the great recession, we saw an uptick in young people moving back home this trend is more about giving the older generations a place to live.

Multi-generational housing is pretty scarce but existing housing can be modified. I grew up in a multi-generational household. My parents had an addition put on the back of the house so that my grandmother could live with us. She had her own entrance bed, bath, and sitting room just off the kitchen.

When my mother was growing up her grandmother lived with them in a spare bedroom.


graph of multi-gen housing gorwth
Multi-geneational housing

It is January, time for a radon test

January is national radon awareness month even in 2021. The winter months are one of the best times to test radon levels. 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

Home sales will be up in 2020

It isn’t too early to call. Home sales are up in the metro area in 2020 over what they were in 2019. Year to date they are up by 10% in St. Paul and as you can see from the graph below they are up over 10% for the last three months.

I’ll be following this closely as the pandemic worsens. So far November home sales are up slightly from a year ago. Typically home sales go down during the holidays mainly because fewer people want to have their homes on the market during the holidays.

graph of new listings
New listings

The data used to make the graph is from the NorstarMLS and is deemed reliable but not gaurnateed.