Saint Paul Real Estate Blog

2008 Minnesota Solar Tour

If you haven’t decided what you want to do yet this weekend and you have an appreciation for earth-friendly home improvements, you could be in luck.  The 2008 Minnesota Solar Tour may be the perfect event for you.  Put together by the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES), the Minnesota Solar Tour is a self-guided, public tour featuring 70+ exemplary homes, businesses, and institutions that have incorporated renewable energy into the design and operation of their buildings.

This is an excellent opportunity local residents to find out how their neighbors are lowering their energy bills, creating energy independence, and taking their own personal steps toward addressing global warming.  This event also offers people who are interested in solar and other renewable energies to view installations and talk with building owners, builders, architects, and planners about their experiences.

What can you expect to see on the Minnesota Solar Tour?  There will be geothermal heat pumps that use heat from the earth, wind turbines that create energy as they twirl in the wind, and as expected, many forms of solar energy.

The 2008 Minnesota Solar Tour event is this Saturday, October 4th.  The homes, businesses, and other buildings participating in the tour will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Click here to view details and maps of this year's Minnesota Solar Tour sites.


Tips for First Time Home Sellers

Last week, I wrote some do’s and don’ts to help first time home buyers prepare to buy their first home.  Last week, there were tips specifically for selling a home during the fall.  Yesterday, I started providing information for sellers, specifically about tips for selling a vacant home.  Today, I’d like to address first time home sellers.  Newness to the home selling process and a lethargic real estate market could make anyone balk at the prospect of selling a home for the first time. Here are some tips particularly for people who may be selling a home for the very first time. 

  1. It’s Not Impossible. About 5.25 million  existing homes were sold throughout the year in 2001. About 5.65 million existing home were sold in 2007, the fifth highest year on record, even though the market was down.  Though that figure is still 12.8% short of the 6.48 million sold in 2006, it shows that even when the real estate market may look dismal, other people have been selling their homes.  You can sell yours, too.
  2. Get Representation.  You knew it was important to have a real estate agent help when you bought the house.  Know that when you are selling your home, it’s even more important to have a Realtor looking out for your best interests.  It is your equity that has been building up in the house. Take time to pick the right Realtor with experience...

Tips to Sell a Vacant House

Last week, I wrote some tips for first time home buyers.  Specifically, things they should do and shouldn't do to prepare for buying a homeBut buyers are only part of the equation, sellers are another big part.  This week, I’ll talk about some tips for people who are selling a home. I’ll start with the subject of vacant homes, since there are so many homes which have been foreclosed on or whose owners got too impatient to wait for it to sell.

After years and the real estate business, I can say that the idea a home is sitting vacant while it is on the market is almost an immediate turn-off for potential buyers.  Often their imagination runs rampant with ideas of an unkempt yard, scarred walled, filthy floors, possibly even stolen wiring and copper piping.  Alas, an existing home that looks “lived in” when it is furnished and people are actually living there, it could look bare and flawed to potential home buyers when it’s unoccupied.  That can be overcome, however, as selling a vacant home isn't impossible.  If you must vacate a home before you sell it, try to follow these pointers:

  • First impressions count. Even if the house you are trying to sell is vacant, it must have some curb appeal.  Regardless of whether your home is vacant or not, make sure that the surrounding grounds are being well kept.  If you have to, pay a neighbor to mow the lawn, keep it watered, and tend to the landscaping. 
  • Spruce up landscaping before...

The Como Park Neighborhood of Saint Paul

Como Park is in the northwest area of Saint Paul real estate. It is bordered on the north by Hoyt Avenue and Larpenteur Avenue and on the south by the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks and Maryland Avenue, with Snelling Avenue making up the western boarder and Dale Street the eastern boundary.  Known as St. Paul's Garden District, Como Park is primarily a residential and recreational neighborhood.   The neighborhood is centered around Como Lake and its large parks.

At the beginning of its “modern” history, Como Park was settled as farmland in the mid 1800's. Como Lake was named in 1848 and was incorporated into the city of St. Paul in 1854. Real estate developer Henry McKenty believed the Como Park area would make a great resort, which lead to construction on Como Road beginning in 1868.  Though McKenty's real estate visions never developed, Como Road still exists today as part of a major street running through the neighborhood, Como Avenue.

256 acres of land on the west side of Lake Como were bought by the City of St. Paul in 1873 because of its picturesque location.  The electric street car was introduced to Lake Como in 1893, allowing Saint Paul residents to make the 3-mile trip to Como Lake Park in 30 minutes. In 1897, the Como Zoo was built. The Como Lakeside Pavilion was constructed from 1905 to 1906. Then the Como Park Conservatory was built in 1915. These historic structures are still the centerpieces of the neighborhood’s recreational venues.

In fact, Como Park is the most widely used park in the Twin Cities area. Admittance to the Como Park Zoo is free to visitors. The Marjorie McNeely...

Fall Landscaping Duties

So it’s fall and you’re trying to sell your home.  Though you hope you won’t be living in your current house for much longer, this is not the time to completely shirk your fall landscaping duties.  Not only is there the chance the home doesn’t sell before next spring, but all the work you put into making it look good shouldn’t just go to waste.  Do what you can to preserve it for the potential buyer of your home.  Here are some of the most basic things you should do to prepare your landscaping, gardens, and lawn for the winter.  not selling

Take care of your lawn.  Fall is the best time to fertilize because our northern lawn grasses resume active growth when nights get cooler and longer.  Applying fertilizer now and a second time in mid-October to early November will ensure the lawn is green and lush next spring.  Though it is a little too late to seed areas of your lawn which may have grown thin, it's not too late to aerate or top-dress a lackluster lawn with a thin layer of completed compost.  Unlike compost, a thick layer of leaves can cause snow mold, which will damages the grass.  To avoid this, rake the leaves, bag them and save them to use as winter mulch. If you have just a thin layer of leaves on your lawn, run the mower over them a couple of times and leave it. If your grass is 3 to 4 inches long or longer, mow your lawn once or twice more. It's best to leave grass about 2 to 2 1/2 inches long going into winter.

Continue your watering regimen.  Because we had yet another dry summer, your lawn, plants, and trees may be stressed by drought.  This is a vulnerable position for them to be in heading into the winter. ...

Home Selling Tips for the Fall

Yesterday was the autumn equinox and the first official day of fall.  Summer, which is traditionally the best season for selling a home, has ended by calendar standards.  This tends to be the time of year when the housing market starts to slow down, with fewer homes selling.  There are some steps which can be taken in order to increase its appeal to potential home buyers.  If your goal is to sell your home this fall, take these tips into consideration:

1.  First Impressions.  Selling a home in autumn has its own particular complications.  Green lawns, colorful flowers, and bright sunny days:  In the summertime, it’s easy to make a house look good.  Though the fall red, orange, rust, and yellow colors are beautiful, it’s when the leaves fall that the trouble starts.  A blanket of crinkly leaves atop a brown lawn is not attractive and will detract some from the curb appeal of your home.  If the ground isn’t frozen, you can continue with your regular lawn care: water the grass, trim brown plants, and rake up the leaves often.  Place potted mums and pansies in the front of the home to add an extra splash of color.

2.  Light Up Your Life.  There is less and less natural sunlight peeking into the windows as the days get shorter, but a dark home is uninviting.  To counter this, open all of the drapes and blinds in your home when showing it to let in the most sunlight.  To make the most of the sun’s rays, clean the windows to a shine.  On dark days, switch on table lamps, standing lamps, or overhead lights so each room is well lit.


First Time Home Buyer Don’ts

Earlier this week, I wrote a little bit about some things that first time home buyers should do when they are peparing to buy a home.  As there are many things you should do to increase your chances of becoming a first time home owner, there are also things you should not do as well.  Here are some of the don’ts for people considering purchasing a home.

Don’t switch jobs. Mortgages are very large loans.  Because they are putting up the money, lenders like to see a steady job history.  Getting a new job during the loan approval process could raise some red flags which affect your application. In most cases, career changes jobs will not affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage loan, however if you are qualifying for any specific types of loans because of your income, there may be trouble.  Find out how your potential job change will impact the approvability of your mortgage loan before it happens.

Don’t switch banks or move funds around.  Mortgage lenders will likely ask you to provide bank statements for the last two to three months on your checking accounts, savings accounts, money market funds, and other assets as part of the review process for your loan. To eliminate potential fraud, most lenders will need to see a thorough paper trail documenting the sources of all the funds you are using. It could become difficult for your potential lender to document your money if you change banks or transfer money to another account.

Don't finance any large purchases that will add to your monthly debt. Your monthly income and expenditures need to be within a certain ratio when you apply for a mortgage. By taking on more debt, your ratios could be affected adversely....

Saint Paul’s Courthouse Reopens

After three years, federal employees returned to work on Monday at the newly renovated Warren E. Burger Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse.  Among the renovations made to the building located at 316 N. Robert Street are the addition of four new courtrooms, a brighter public lobby, and state-of-the art security enhancements.  The improvements are intended to make the building more accessible to the public and update security to 21st century standards, all the while preserving the elegance of the courtrooms and the building.  The renovation project cost $70 million.

Inside, the interior lobby is airy and filled with natural light. Some courtrooms are brand new, others refurbished.  In all, the building now has 10 district courtrooms and about 180 employees.  The rich furnishings and stately appearance of the older courtrooms have been saved.  

A public ceremony will be held October 2 to rededicate the building.

The federal building was named after Burger, who grew up in Saint Paul neighborhoods and was chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1969 to 1986.


First Time Home Buyer Dos

If you’re considering purchasing your first home, there are some things you can do to increase the chances your loan is approved and at a reasonable interest rate.  Here are some “to do’s” for people considering buying their first home or their next home.

Do make sure that you take the time to educate yourself about what the home buying process involves.  Knowledge is truly the key to having a smooth transaction.  The more familiar you are with the process of buying a home, the more easily it will go.  Absorb as much information about home ownership as you can.  There are many educational seminars offered by government programs or even by real estate agencies which will tell you a lot of the information you need to know.

Do make sure that you have clean credit.  Having bad credit doesn't mean that you absolutely won't be able to get a loan, but it does most likely mean that you will have to pay a higher interest rate.  Additionally, it may mean that you may have to collect a larger down payment for the home.  Before your potential lender has that chance to look at them, order copies of your credit reports and scores from the three bureaus.  Review all the information contained in them to ensure that it is accurate.  If you find any errors, follow the bureau’s instructions to have the matter investigated and corrected.  This way, there won’t be any unpleasant surprises when you finally apply for your mortgage loan.

Do pay your bills on time.  Cleaning up credit is just one part of the equation, maintaining is another. For as long as you can before and during the home buying process, make all of your scheduled bill payments in full and on time. The critical bills a lender looks at are your rent or mortgage payments, then installment loans like car payments and student loans, and lastly revolving payments like credit cards. The lender...

Saint Paul Real Estate Market Analysis for August 2008

Oh would you believe it?  New listings for homes fell in Saint Paul, Minnesota, for yet another month in a row during August, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors’ Market Update for 100 Twin Cities Communities. Throughout the month of August, there were 553 new listings in the City of Saint Paul. In August of 2007, there were 641 new listings, which is a drop of about -13.7%, about the same as July's drop of -13.6%. The Como / Como Park neighborhood of St. Paul experienced the largest decrease in new listings at -32.5%.  The Merriam Park was the only neighborhood of Saint Paul to experience an increase in new listings in August compared to last year.  Listings there rose 6.7%.

For St. Paul’s posted new listing for January through August, there were 4,922 new listings in the city.  This is a drop of -10.2% compared to the 5,482 new listings during the same time period of 2007.  The greatest new listing fluctuations happened in the St. Anthony/Midway neighborhoods, where new listings have decreased by nearly 30% for the past two months in a row, while the West Side / Cherokee neighborhood’s...

New Law: Carbon Monoxide Detectors

I'm a little late on this, but late is always better than never.  It's September, it’s getting colder outside.  I even heard that we’re supposed to have frost this week.  That means soon we’ll be sealing the houses up and firing up the furnace.  It’s the time of year when carbon monoxide leaks are found after heating units sat over the summer.

As of August 1st, a new CO detector law went into effect which requires that every new and existing single family home have a carbon monoxide detector installed within 10 feet of every room used for sleeping.  Multi-family homes and apartment buildings must comply by August 1, 2009.

According to the State Fire Marshall website:

• Every single family dwelling and every multifamily dwelling unit shall be provided with a minimum of one approved and fully operational carbon monoxide alarm installed within ten (10) feet of each room lawfully used for sleeping purposes.

• If bedrooms are located on separate floors additional carbon monoxide alarms would be necessary within ten feet of these areas.

• If bedrooms are located in separate areas (on the same level), additional carbon monoxide alarms would be necessary within ten (10) feet of these areas.

• In lieu of installing multiple CO alarms in the hallway, a separate CO could be installed inside each sleeping room

• It is important that these devices be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installations instructions and not be placed in ‘dead’ air pockets such as corners of rooms, at the junction of walls and ceilings or within thirty-six (36) inches of ventilation ducts.

• Carbon monoxide alarms shall be installed at the height specified...

Saint Paul Home Buyer Programs

There are lots of great programs for first time home buyers and for those who are looking for their next home.  I’ve put together some of the information below to give home buyers what they need to know in order to check the programs out.  Please take a look below!

CityLiving Home Programs

The City of Saint Paul offers mortgage loans and home improvement loans through its CityLiving Home Program, a joint effort shared with the City of Minneapolis. CityLiving loans offer homebuyers an opportunity to purchase St. Paul homes at an interest rate that is generally below market rates. More than 10,000 people have purchased a home through the CityLiving program over the past 20 years. Here are the qualifications the program expects:
  • Maximum household income for 1-2 people is $77,000
  • Maximum household income for 3 or more people is $84,700
  • Maximum purchase price limit is $254,100
  • 3% grant available for down payment or closing costs with a slightly higher interest rate

The City Living Program also offers homebuyer education and counseling through what is known as the Home Stretch Program.  Coordinated by the Minnesota Home Ownership Center, Home Stretch helps to educate people about the home buying process so they can avoid common mistakes and predatory lending....

Invest Saint Paul: Community Days

As part of Mayor Chris Coleman’s Invest Saint Paul initiative, Community Days events have been happening all across Saint Paul neighborhoods.

The aim of Community Days is to bring fun, family friendly events to residents, as well as information about resources and opportunities available to them in Saint Paul.  Activities include free prizes, Parks and Rec Mobile Team with games and arts and crafts for kids, Saint Paul Public Libraries’ Bookmobile, a fire truck, ambulance, and police officers and fire fighters for residents to meet.

“These events provide an opportunity for us to engage with residents and educate them about what the city has to offer and how residents can work with our departments to benefit themselves and their neighborhoods,” Mayor Coleman said. “By bringing ‘the city’ out to the residents, we are removing the transportation barrier to accessing resources. Working to ensure all neighborhoods thrive is crucial to achieving our goal of making Saint Paul the Most Livable City in America.”

Representatives from each city department will have booths set up, at which residents can learn about the resources each St. Paul department provide and how to access them.  Invest Saint Paul Community Days also hosts representatives from Ramsey County, non-profits,...

Walking Tour of Saint Paul

"Uniquely St. Paul," put out by the Rotary Club of Saint Paul, is a new self-guided walking tour of Minnesota's capital city.  Just in time for the Republican National Convention, the tour takes people past 13 downtown Saint Paul historic sites beginning and ending at the Landmark Center. Two other strolls offer highlights of Lowertown and the Mississippi River.  People who take the tour will get some exercise and interesting facts along the way. Find out who why places are named as they are and other little-known details about St. Paul’s landmarks and influential residents.

The free brochure to take the tour is available at the Landmark Center, downtown hotels and other tour sites. It was funded by the Todd and Martha Nicholson Family Foundation, AAA Minnesota/Iowa, 3M Co., Padelford Riverboats and the St. Paul Rotary Foundation.

The Rotary Club has printed 20,000 brochures, but more may be printed if there is a need. For more information or to print off your own brochure at home, go to
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