Saturday, January 11, 2020

Minneapolis, Don't Forget to Miss Me

North by Northside, signing off.

Ever since I began to be drawn to the move to Superior, this song "Don't Forget to Miss Me" has been my personal Twin Cities theme song.

She said she's gonna make it back, it could be any day
It's not so much the waiting as not knowing what to say
She said, oh always keep me close
Even 'cross the distant sea
One more thing, oh yeah, before I go
Don't you forget to miss me

Sometimes I would be singing it as if directed at a place that had been my home, hoping the contributions I made and whatever lessons I could teach would remain and be built upon.  (Minneapolis, don't you forget to miss me.)  Other times I envisioned Minneapolis singing it to me, reminding me to keep what I have learned and continue my service to a community in my new home.  (Minneapolis: Don't you forget to miss me.)  For a very long time, my relationship with wherever I happen to live has extended almost to a personal level of attachment.

Have you ever been in a long-term relationship with someone and then felt yourselves growing apart?  Have you ever woken up one morning, and turned your gaze to your loved one only to realize that because one or both of you have changed, now you don't love them the same way anymore?  What do you do when that happens, do you recommit yourselves to what essentially amounts to a new relationship, do you go through the motions and stay together even though things now feel hollow, or do you realize that it's now time to part ways?  What happens when you feel that way about your home?

I don't love Minneapolis anymore and I hadn't for a while even before I left.  Or at least I stopped loving it in the way I used to.  If I were to characterize my relationship with this city on a personal level...

Friday, January 10, 2020

First-Time Home Seller, Part III: The Move

Before you get your home ready to show prospective buyers, the most important thing to realize is that you have terrible taste.  Sure, you love the color scheme in the dining room and it was fashionable, but trust me, those particular shades of whatever paint you used look awful now and your buyers will hate it.  And if they don't like it then the first thing they'll do when they put an offer together is start to take money off the top.  "Well since we're going to redo almost every surface in there, let's drop our offer by maybe two grand.  I mean Jesus. Burnt orange and chartreuse?"  There is a scientific basis for this as well, in that people react differently to colors, but can more easily imagine their preferred color scheme on a neutral surface.

Lesson 10: Paint it white.  Go back and watch the business card scene from American Psycho, write down every "shade" of white that they describe, bring that list to a Sherwin Williams store, and tell them this is your new color palate.

"Look at that subtle off-white coloring..."

This is a good time to remember that all of your furniture is ugly too.  Sure you knew the couch you picked up in college from someone's alley and is now in the basement man-cave should be passed on to the next generation of kids getting their first apartment or possibly destroyed via exorcism.  But everything you bought since then is awful too.  The bench that looked so charming on the Wayfair website was exactly the wrong one, the klibbig och förfallen from Ikea wasn't put together right and it just so happens your prospective buyers are snobby Swedish furniture assemblers and they will notice such things, and let's not get started on those dining room chairs.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

First-Time Home Seller, Part II: The Finances

What is your plan financially?

When I teach classes for people on buying their first homes, one thing I would show was a chart for how much money you need and when you need it.  From the point of just thinking about buying (you may need $15-20 for your own credit report) to the costs of inspections, appraisals, earnest money, and the day of closing.  How long does that process go and when do you need money during those stages? Selling a home isn’t free either, and having the same kind of understanding will make navigating that far easier.

Many cities, Minneapolis included, have pre-sale inspection reports as a requirement.  The inspector may be either a city employee or just someone qualified to review your home for code issues.  In most cases, anything below code will then become the responsibility of the new buyer, sometimes to fix within a specified time period after taking ownership.  The idea is to have no items below that grade, which is another good reason to have a realtor who can help spot those before the inspection. The pre-sale inspections tend to cost between $200 and $500, and if you decide to do any repairs and have them reinspect for a cleaner report at the time of sale, plan on a small fee for a second visit. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

When is Your Credit Score not Your Credit Score?

Who has monitored their credit on sites like Credit Karma, only to apply for a loan and have the score vary so wildly that you couldn't get financing?  In my time as a mortgage originator, I lost count of how often applicants would say, "But I just checked my score and it was way higher than that!"

My usual response would be that sites like Credit Karma are sort of like Zillow for your credit profile.  The information is a good estimate of what your score and profile are, but lenders don't use that exact formula.  Realtors use a similar line on some disclosures by saying the "information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed."  That was true enough of an explanation when I was on the corporate side of the desk, but I recently applied for my own financing and found out just how hard it can be to navigate what my credit score really is.  I felt like Alice in "Through the Looking Glass," I knew what my credit score was this morning, but it changed a few times since then.

This post will break down what that meant and what happened.  In that order.  Have you ever looked for a recipe online and seen a long soliloquy before the list of ingredients?  "It all started when I took a year off from college to backpack through Italy.  I met a Tuscan grandmother who told me that the secret to a good marinara was patience..."  And here you are thinking, "Damnit, I'm in the checkout aisle at Costco right now and I'm just wondering how to add some zest to the rigatoni.  I don't need to read 'Eat, Pray, Love' first.  Or if I'm being entirely honest here, again."

So I'm switching things up and doing the useful part first and then the story for anyone who's still reading.

Friday, August 9, 2019

First-Time Home Seller, Part One

I have worked for almost twenty years with first-time homebuyers - either counseling them as a non-profit employee or counseling them AND closing their mortgages as a loan originator.  So I’ve seen that there’s no shortage of advice out there for first-time homebuyers. But when I went to sell my home, I thought about how little guidance there is for first-time SELLERS.  Which most first-time buyers will become at some point in their lives. Now that my home has sold, I want to walk people through that experience and hopefully provide a few helpful pointers of what you might not have thought about before that undertaking.

If it seems, at times, like a piece of advice comes out of nowhere and one thing doesn’t always follow another in any logical sense, that’s because in the process of selling your home things come out of nowhere and one thing doesn’t always follow another in any logical sense.  Selling your home is sort of like if you’re dating someone and the relationship gets to the point where the two of you are finally ready to take the big step and meet one partner’s friends for board game night. And it turns out you thought you knew how things would go but everyone’s got these inside jokes and they bust out the rule book to prove to you that you’ve been playing Monopoly wrong for your whole life and you’re thinking about breaking up with her before the game is even done but they made you be the damned thimble and now you’re determined to win, if only to prove a point.  

In order to give some semblance of order while still allowing for the occasional non-sequitir, I’ve broken this series down into three categories.  The emotional/mental side of things, the physical/practical aspect, and the finances.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Rental Screening Proposals Go Too Far

Minneapolis is proposing a sweeping change to how landlords can screen tenants.  The ordinance is, well, problematic enough to rouse me from my slumber.  I've got a few blog posts left in me on this site and then I'm doing my best to look forward instead of back at my old town.

The proposed changes can be found here and here.

And it's not all bad, to be honest.  But like a lot of what this council does, this proposal takes some good and necessary changes, adds in some trendy left-wing buzzwords, mimics west-coast policies that may or may not apply to the realities of a Minnesota marketplace, tosses those in a blender with some predetermined conclusions and today's ideological purity requirements, and presto!  That's how you get new city code!  Schoolhouse Rock really ought to write a song about this, but it's tough to find words that rhyme with "ordinance."

I do want to break this down into the good, the maybe, and the ugly.  First, the good parts...

Friday, February 8, 2019

On Representation within Neighborhood Boards

Image from Wikipedia.

There is an ostensibly noble push to create more diversity on Minneapolis neighborhood boards.  Noble because the premise is sound; community organizations should at least somewhat mirror the demographics of the neighborhoods they serve.  I characterize the current push as coming from a questionable place though, and that leaves me with doubts about whatever policy might come from any changes.

My entire twelve-year connection to north Minneapolis was spent as part of a neighborhood organization, either as a staff person or as a committee and board member - even two years as board chair.  If there is one thing I learned as an absolute truth for community participation during that time, it is this:

Meetings don't make people come to meetings; issues make people come to meetings.

So when city staff, elected officials, or critics and opponents of these organizations make the accurate claim that some don't have enough people of color, renters, or other demographics in attendance or leadership roles, my first questions are...