I was standing with a client in front of a St Paul duplex that was one whale of a deal last week when a neighbor passed.
She abruptly informed us the property was a Category 3 vacant building and had to either be repaired before it could be sold or torn down. Knowing the listing agent is a competent foreclosure specialist, I doubted this.
Nonetheless, when I got back to the office I double checked the city of St Paul’s vacant building list. It wasn’t there. At all. Which underscores the importance of checking for facts, rather than believing neighborhood fiction.
So, what is the vacant building list? Like many metro area cities, St Paul requires the seller of a property to get a Truth In Housing report done prior to putting it on the market. This holds true for foreclosures as well.
Once this is completed, the duplex is classified as Category 1, 2 or 3. The category level not only is a commentary on the property’s condition, but a reflection of its marketability as well.
Category 1 properties are unoccupied, unsecured, secured by other than normal means (like boarded up windows) or have been unoccupied for one year without any nuisance orders.
Category 2vacant duplexes are unoccupied, secured by other than normal means and, either condemned as uninhabitable, vacated by fire, or unoccupied with several violations of housing and building code.
Category 3registered vacant buildings are unoccupied and declared a nuisance building for one of three things: dangerous structure, condemned with conditions constituting material endangerment or has multiple violations with conditions constituting material endangerment.
What if you find a St Paul property you love and it falls into one of these categories? Well, as long as it’s a Category 1, it’s a short story. You, or the seller must: register or re-register ownership, pay any outstanding fees and comply with existing orders for legal occupancy.
Category 2 isn’t quite as fast of a read. Like Category 1, you must register or re-register ownership and pay any outstanding fees. However, you must also submit for approval an estimate from a licensed contractor for completing the code compliance, as well as a schedule for completion of that work.
The city would also like proof that you can pay for it: either through a performance bond, escrow account or other approved proof.
Now for the big bad wolf: Category 3. These properties may not be sold at all unless the seller obtains one of three certificates: occupancy, code compliance or fire certificate of occupancy.
And if they don’t? Even if you buy it and agree to make all the repairs, the city can force it to be torn down.