“Ghost Highway”

by Ross Kaplan on March 29, 2015


Highway 100 Between 394 and 62 on Weekends

Even with all the advance notice about pending construction, it’s still a bit eerie to see six or so miles of what’s ordinarily heavily trafficked Twin Cities freeway . . . completely empty.

You know it’s a major hassle when the “Detour” signs direct drivers to Highway 169, which runs parallel to 100 — but several miles to the west.

Silver linings (at least if you’re not going north/south on the west side of town):  much shorter lines than usual at typically bustling West End (St. Louis Park) businesses like Home Depot, Bruegger’s, and Costco gas this weekend.


Real Estate “How-To” Articles

Unlike the general public, I don’t read articles like “How to Stay on Top of Your Home Closing” (Angie’s List) to learn anything new (or, at least I hope I don’t).

howRather, I read the articles to see how sound their advice to consumers is.

On that score, the Angie’s List piece rates a good-but-not-great “B.”

Hits & Misses

Pluses:  Angie’s List smartly advises prospective home Buyers to avoid making (other) major purchases prior to closing (it may impair their qualifying for a mortgage); and cautions against having the same Realtor represent both Buyer and Seller in the same transaction (a type of “dual agency” — illegal in several states, but which Minnesota allows if it’s disclosed and both parties agree).

But I also caught some potentially dangerous flubs, at least as residential real estate is practiced in Minnesota.

Here are the excerpts, with my commentary in italics immediately after:

Angie’s List:  “The short window to do a home inspection opens when a would-be Buyer submits an offer on a home.”

Ross KaplanWrong.  The clock for the Buyer to do their inspection doesn’t turn on until the Buyer and Seller have entered into a fully executed Purchase Agreement.  Called “Final Acceptance,” the date is filled in at the end of the PA, and helps defines how long the Buyer has to physically inspect the home (along with line 25. of the Inspection Addendum).

Angie’s List:  “Only contractors, not inspectors, can suggest fixes and provide estimates when an inspection uncovers problems.”

Ross KaplanYes and no.  When the inspection uncovers a material defect costing thousands of dollars to repair, it’s appropriate to get estimates from licensed contractors (and extend the Inspection timetable to allow for that).

However, good inspectors can and do routinely estimate projects — and opine as to whether there IS a major problem — thereby avoiding the expense of hiring an electrician, plumber, roofer, etc. prematurely (or at all).

As they say, “never ask a barber if you need a haircut.” 

Angie’s List:  “We were 10 days overdue on the closing date and the Seller of the house decided he was going to start accepting new offers.”

Ross KaplanUnh-uh.  A home owner can only sell their home to one Buyer at a time.  While Buyer #1 appears to be in breach of contract by not timely closing, the Buyer and Seller are still governed by the Purchase Agreement and whatever remedies it provides.

Before the Seller can move on to another Buyer, they must have the first Purchase Agreement cancelled (Note:  technically, the Seller may accept a backup offer that is conditioned upon the first Purchase Agreement cancelling.  However, most Buyers will want to wait for the dust to settle before entering into such a contract — or at least stipulate a maximum waiting period).

See, “Get Me Out of the Deal!  Statutory Cancellation for Beginners.”

Fortunately, the various real estate “how-to” articles all offer sound advice when it comes to the first and most important matter they discuss.

Namely, be sure to use a good, experienced agent to help you buy or sell a home.


“But, I Thought You Said My Child Was Doing Well!”

It took me a second to square the positive feedback my wife and I heard about our daughter from her teacher at conferences earlier this week, and the “3/20″ marked in bright red at the top of her latest quiz.

Thankfully, the reference wasn’t to how many of the questions she got right — it was to the date (“March 20″).

Phew . . .


Balancing Home Search “False Negatives” vs. “False Positives”

When setting up searches for prospective Buyers, the goal is to find “the Goldilocks” happy medium:  conciergesufficiently narrow criteria that the resulting list is manageable . . . but not so narrow that the search returns only a handful of listings.

Or none.

In practice, for most Buyers, the right number of initial search hits is usually 10-15 — with an additional 2-3 new listings per week (at least during the active Spring months).

Conveniently for Buyers’ agents, MLS allows agents to automatically email clients any new listings meeting their search criteria.

“The Goldilocks Setting”

Unfortunately, even a well-honed search is never going to be perfect.

The two, reciprocal risks are that:  1) the search is over broad, and returns listings that ultimately aren’t good candidates; or conversely, 2) the search is so narrow that the Buyer misses out on some good candidates.

In statistics, those are known as the risks of a “false positive” and a “false negative,” respectively.

Pre-Screening Candidates

Given how quickly it’s possible for an experienced agent to vet listings online (at least superficially), my druthers is to always err on the over-broad side.

However, if the search results overload the client, a good compromise (vs. narrowing the search) is for the Buyer’s agent to select “Concierge” mode on MLS.

Then, new listings are first sent to the Buyer’s agent, who can screen out any outliers before forwarding the remainder of the list to their client.


Realtor April Fool’s Jokes

March 25, 2015

“Can I Please Speak to Myra Mains?” [Editor’s Note:  if you’re a regular reader, you may recall this post from previous years.  Normally, I re-run it close to April 1.  However, given that Google and other search engines already seem to be finding it early, I’m moving up the timing this year.] Courtesy of Edina […]

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Popped Roof Near Cedar Lake: THAT Was Fast!

March 25, 2015

Work in Progress in Fern Hill How long does it take to put up a 2nd story on what had been a rambler? Not long, judging by the progress on this home just west of Cedar Lake, in St. Louis Park’s Fern Hill neighborhood. The photo above was taken today; the one below is from eight(!) days ago (and […]

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Real Estate Sauce, Geese, and Ganders

March 25, 2015

“What’s Sauce for the Goose is Sauce for the Gander” I suppose the opposite of that is, “what isn’t sauce for the goose isn’t sauce for the gander.” Huh?!? One of the insights into pricing a “For Sale” home well is recognizing that some properties ARE more difficult to value, due to their uniqueness, location, […]

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The OTHER Use For Feb. 2015 Global Warming Map: The Case for (Finally) Capturing Economic “Externalities”

March 23, 2015

Second Home Selector, or “Hello, Palm Springs!” That’s not just a map (above) of how much February, 2015 global temperatures departed from global averages the last 30 years. If you live in Minnesota, it’s a 2nd home (or winter vacation) selector. So, if your principal residence is in a purple area experiencing temps -5º below […]

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