After today no more texting and driving

Effective August 1, 2019 – it is against the law touch cell phone while driving. I guess electronic messaging while driving was already against the law.

Highlights of the new law:

• Amends the definition of wireless communications
device (e.g., cell phone or personal electronic device
that can transmit data):
• Dedicated GPS and some types of radios are not
considered wireless communications devices
• Devices being used for navigation purposes (such as
through a smartphone app) are treated as wireless
communication devices
• In addition to the existing ban on electronic messaging,
prohibits a motor vehicle operator from
• Engaging in cellular phone calls
• Accessing various content on the device, including
video, audio, and apps
• Allows hands-free device use for calling
• Allows GPS features to be used, if it is in hands-free
mode without requiring typing
• Allows device use for audio content, if it is in hands-free
mode without requiring scrolling or typing.

I have been using a nifty little phone holder that fits on the air vent in my car. It is inexpensive and very low tech.  I use the blue tooth to listen to text messages and can send a response back without typing but I almost never do. I like the idea of driving without talking on the phone or responding to messages.

The penalty for violating the law is a petty misdemeanor, carrying a $50 fine for the first violation and a $275 fine for subsequent violations.

There is always something broken at my house

Things break and they are more likely to break shortly after new homeowners move in. A few years ago a couple bought a house and discovered that the veggie sprayer wasn’t working. The new homeowners threatened to sue the sellers over it and demanded an amount of money that far exceeded the cost of installing a new sprayer.

Elderly appliances can break down as soon as a new home buyer touches them. It is like appliances know the house has changed hands. That old washer will work for decades but as soon as it changes hands it breaks. Most of the appliances that are sold with houses are considered personal property and are not real estate. I like to think of working appliances as a bonus.

Plumbing leaks happen and sometimes electrical problems too.

In my house, there is always something broken. So far this year we have had an electrician restore power to the electrical outlets in the kitchen and we have had our washer repaired and it looks like I’ll be buying another one soon. We had water leaking in around a window and repaired it by recaulking. Our elderly dehumidifier broke down last week and leaked all over the floor.  I ended up buying a new one.

I am not trying to scare anyone off but if you own a home you will need to make repairs and replace appliances. That is just part of the bargain.

If you buy or sell a house something will go wrong I promise. Be prepared and stay calm.

How to find truth in housing reports

TruthHome buyers can use Google to find:  “St. Paul property look-up” and type in a property address of a home for sale and find the Truth in Housing Report. I would provide a link but those pages move around too much.

The City of St. Paul requires a truth in housing report for residential dwellings of all types before they can be sold. The report is made by an inspector who has been approved by the city.

They look for code violations and the seller is not required to repair anything but is required to put in a hard-wired smoke detector if there are none in the home.

“Failure to obtain a Truth-in-Sale of Housing disclosure report before marketing a house for sale,
or failure to make that disclosure report available to prospective buyers, is a violation of law and
is punishable as a misdemeanor carrying up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine.”
[city ordinance]

These reports are different from the seller’s disclosure. The seller’s disclosure is a multiple page form the must be filled out by the sellers. it contains questions about the condition of the property, and the sellers can disclose information about maintenance problems.

In the older homes, it isn’t unusual to find several odds and ends on the TISH report that need attention. The idea is to make the buyer aware of these problems. The reports are helpful to home buyers, their agents and inspectors.

The city has a list of the ten most common deficiencies, search for the list and fix everything before the inspector arrives. 🙂

The inspector also looks for open permits. All permits have to be “finaled” by the city inspector before the sale of the home can close. Looking at the permits can provide a lot of useful information about when work was done to the home.

Buyers should note that the cities inspection does not take the place of a buyers inspection and I urge home buyers to have an inspection. The buyer’s inspection covers much more than the city inspection.

Closed sales are down

The number of home sales is down in Minnesota and certainly in the metro area. It isn’t because homes are not selling it is because fewer people are putting their homes on the market. Some of it has to do with an aging population. Older people own a lot of real estate and are less likely to move.

The population is growing and fewer houses are being built.

Minnesota Association of REALTORS


. . and now the waters recede

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. I know the floods are destructive and inconvenient but they also present an opportunity to get outside, walk, enjoy the spring weather and take some photographs.

In a week or so we should start seeing some leaves on the trees. It will be nice to start seeing some green again. It should almost be warm enough to make biking fun again. 🙂

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real estate commissions are always negotiable

You may have heard or you may believe that REALTORS and real estate agents all charge X%.

The truth is we are not allowed to know what other agents are charging and there is no central data repository where commissions data can be collected and analyzed.

Some real estate companies tell their agents to charge X amount. Real estate agents are independent contractors and can say no or move to another company.

Real estate commissions are always negotiable. It isn’t always easy to negotiate with real estate agents. We negotiate all the time. Most of us wake up unemployed each morning and spend the day looking for clients. Those of us who survive get to be pretty good at negotiating.

If you find real estate agent who will not negotiate find one who will. There are like a zillion agents who are qualified to sell your home and who would do a good job. There isn’t any reason to settle.

You want an agents who is easy to work with and one who can negotiate.

When negotiating commission agents are taught to tell homeowners that agents who will discount their commission will likely get less for your house. There is no data to back that up. It is the sellers who have the last word about which offer gets accepted, not the agent.

Some agents will tell you they are worth “X” % and show you a list of services they provide and ask you which services they should cut so that they can work for less. Go ahead and challenge the agent to tell you how much each of those services cost.

Buyers agents usually get paid by the seller through the listing agent. I for one have never asked a buyer to pay my commission directly but I certainly could.

If a home buyer asked me to give them part of the commission I would probably say no. What some buyers do not realize is that working with a buyer is a lot more work than working with a seller.

Finding a home for sale has gotten fairly easy but is only a small part of the job. Learning to handle the multiple offers, negotiations during the inspection period and getting it all the way to the closing table can be challenging.

When choosing an agent a home buyer or seller should be choosing an agent who has experience. Agents with no experience can charge as much as experienced agents charge.

When looking for an agent ask your neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers for a recommendation. Talk to a few agents and ask them how much they charge. Also, ask about any fees charged by the real estate company in addition to a commission.

Also see Oink!

How not to chose a real estate agent