Uncategorized

DON’T move to Minnesota if you can’t handle these things!

I hear some interesting assumptions/stereotypes? when talking to people about Minnesota so I’m here today to set you straight about a couple of them at least! Some of these may be controversial! Don’t shoot the messenger. 

Let’s start out slow, shall we?  The weather. If there is one consistent thing I hear it’s that Minnesota is COLD. I don’t feel like other states spark this much fear about weather, and I’m not quite sure why we do? Yes – it does get cold here in the winter. Sometimes VERY cold, in the double digits below zero for days or a couple of weeks at a time. This is manageable – we have heated homes, heated cars, and we dress appropriately. We have a saying (not proprietary to MN!) that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices. I’ll have to do an entire video on dressing for your first winter in Minnesota! A client actually requested that (hi Linda!).  

And yes, we also do get snow, and people DO enjoy being out in it. Minnesotans as a rule are very outdoorsy and I think that even if you’re not one to want to sit on the ice in the middle of a lake in winter trying to catch a fish, you WILL probably find that spending time outside is the way to go.  I have helped a lot of people move here from very hot climates, many specifically because they wanted relief from the unrelenting heat and the ability to enjoy being outside most of the year.  I’ll have to check with them on the first winter experiences. 

A myth that I hear is that you don’t need AC here. This will shock some, but we don’t live in a bubble of cold air year round, in fact I would say that we get some pretty extreme temperature changes and people that live here love to make jokes about the the fact that the windchill can be deep in the double digits below freezing and then 6 months later have a heat index of 115. We don’t mess around. You DO need air conditioning here.  if you really want to fit in, when it’s bitterly cold make sure you say something like “it wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the wind”, “could be worse” applies to all seasons, and in summer throw out “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!” Add an “Uffda” in there and no one will be the wiser that you’re from out of state.

Tornadoes

Speaking of weather – I’ve had some surprised clients when I tell them to be prepared for tornadoes. Spring and fall are very active weather seasons in MN as cold and hot air start trading places – spinning, if you will! The twin cities area tests their tornado sirens every first wednesday of the month at 1pm. It’s good to know this so you don’t wonder what the heck is happening and why no one at Target is panicking when they hear that. Most minnesota homes have basements and that is a GOOD THING. Even if you don’t love them (and if you don’t love them, keep that to yourself, people here seem to really love basements! remember – conform conform. lol) You’ll want to have an underground lair to escape to if you hear a legit tornado siren. It seems like they only happen at night. I like that we have a comfy bed there so I can sleep while I wait for the tornadoes to potentially demolish my house. When tornado warning sounds it means that they have SEEN A TORNADO AND YOU SHOULD SEEK SHELTER. DO NOT GO STAND ON YOUR PORCH AND LOOK FOR IT!!

Other potential natural disasters are flooding, drought, blizzard and severe thunderstorm. But look at the bright side! no real earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wild fires or hurricanes! 

Politics

OK – Here I go – I’m going to touch the third rail and tell you about the political climate here!  Minnesota has a reputation as a progressive and liberal state.  This is true in the urban areas but less so as you move out to the the rural parts of the state where it becomes quite conservative. I think this is true of most places in the united states and possibly the world. We currently have a divided government with a Democratic Governor, the State Senate is majority Republican and the State House is majority Democrat.  People have to compromise.  The state voted for Joe Biden by a significant margin in the 2020 Presidential election, but make no mistake, Republicans do have a strong voice in the state government here. 

2020 election

Progressive policies

Minnesota IS quite progressive in many ways, and the Twin Cities area even more so. The Human Rights Campaign gives both Minneapolis and St. Paul a score of 100 for LGBTQ policies and the state as a whole scores highly in pro equality laws. We aren’t perfect, but this is an inclusive place to live. 

Minneapolis passed a minimum wage increase to $15/hour which is being phased in by 2024 and is currently $13.50/hour. 

The focus on education here has been in place since the so called “Minnesota Miracle” in 1971 wherein the state government readjusted taxes to benefit the schools. This emphasis has faded a bit over time, but education remains a high priority in MN – at least as compared to the other 5 states I’ve lived in. 

Lastly on the progressive policies – while we aren’t Colorado, medical marijuana is legal in Minnesota as are low dose THC edibles. 

Wildlife and Cautions

What should you be afraid of here? Well, not all wildlife is benign in Minnesota and it’s not all confined to the northern wilderness areas of the state.  Suburbs of the Twin Cities metro area have frequently reported black bear sightings, coyotes are regular visitors (and typically harmless to humans), and we do have cougars. The cat. And probably the women too – but that’s your business. 

We don’t really have venomous insects (a few spiders that will bite and leave you with the equivalent of a bee sting) but we DO have a LOT of TICKS.  If you’re walking through high grass it’s best to have long sleeved shirts and long pants on, tucked into socks is ideal. Permethrin is a spray that you can put on your shoes and clothing to repel ticks and if you’re spending time outdoors its probably a good idea. Ticks do not jump, rather they attach as you walk by and brush against the grass. They then like to burrow in warm dark areas of your body… I’ll let you think of the possibilities here.  Ticks are mainly a problem because they spread diseases like Lyme Disease among many other illnesses. A key indicator that you may have Lyme is if you’ve been where ticks may be (everywhere) and you see a bullseye shaped inflamation on your body. Go to a dr and get treated – Lyme disease can have long lasting effects that attack your joints and make you feel miserable.

If you can’t handle these things maybe you should consider a different state? But in my opinion it’s well worth the risks to live here. We love it! 

Home Buying · Living in Minneapolis · Real Life Relocation · Uncategorized

Moving to MN from St. Louis MO

I specialize in helping people relocate to MN from other parts of the United States and the world thanks to people finding me on my YouTube channel. It’s a niche that I love to serve, people are choosing Minnesota and I love to welcome them here.

I know that this can be a difficult thing to do – uprooting your life to make a change to a completely different everything! The climate, the people, the way that Minnesotans live – which is very much OUTDOORS. Many people make the choice for that very reason. One of the other themes that I hear often is affordability and high quality of life.

If you’re curious about the perspective of this couple, what things felt like challenges, how they overcame those, what made them choose MN, what surprised them when they got here and what they have enjoyed so far, you’ll probably enjoy this video!

If this is a move you are considering making and you have questions please don’t hesitate to ask! It’s what I do day in and day out. 🙂

Neighborhood Tours · small towns and exurbs · Uncategorized

Walkable, Charming, White Bear Lake MN

Need access to the cities but want a small town feel, White Bear Lake has it! I love where I live but every single time I go to White Bear Lake I want to move there! This suburb of Saint Paul just has a good feel to it – from the historic downtown to the lake and parks.  If you’re looking for a walkable lifestyle this should be on your list of places you consider!  Watch the video below to see what I mean – lots of footage of the downtown and the homes.

White Bear Lake sits north of St Paul (so if you’re not from around here that’s the east side of Minneapolis St. Paul), if you work in downtown Saint Paul you’re about a 15 minute commute or to downtown Minneapolis it’s about 25 minutes. Getting to the airport will take a little longer because it’s on the opposite side of the city, but if you’re only heading there periodically it shouldn’t be a problem, it’s less than 30 minutes in decent traffic. 

Downtown White Bear Lake drips CHARM from top to bottom. Most of the homes in the downtown area have a historic look and feel, but are well maintained. As you move out away from that central downtown area homes get a little newer but this is not the place to look if you want new build / subdivision feel. WBL was an old resort town and escape from the city and the rail line still runs right up to it, it retains that feeling of a lakeside vacation area today. The old downtown has a ton of options for restaurants, pubs, bakeries, shops and other services like salons or day spas.  The library is downtown as well, it’s a busy bright and modern space that is part of the Ramsey County Library System. 

panda printed paper coffee cup on table
Photo by Quang Anh Ha Nguyen on Pexels.com

In the summer and fall, Grab your morning coffee and a muffin from one of the bakeries and then enjoy the community and seeing your neighbors while you shop for locally produced eggs, honey, fruits and vegetables at the farmers market held in downtown every Friday morning from June through October. 

a person holding a purple cabbage
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

For a small town white bear lake has a pretty big focus on the arts and you can take classes or take in a show at the White Bear Center for the Arts, The Player’s Theater or the Children’s Performing Arts. 

HOUSING

Home prices in WBL range from the mid-$200’s for a townhouse to $1.2M for a new construction lake front home.  If you want to live directly on the lake, prices are consistently over $1M, but you can find something more moderately priced with lake front access.

low angle photography of brown wooden dock at golden house
Photo by Heiner on Pexels.com

Currently White Bear Lake has a tighter sellers market than the metro area as a whole – they are sitting at only .7 months of inventory whereas the twin cities is a little over a month on average. 

Schools

White Bear Lake Area Schools are the big cahuna in this part of the metro they serve all or parts of Birchwood, Gem Lake, Hugo, Lino Lakes, Little Canada, Maplewood, North Oaks, Vadnais Heights, White Bear Lake and White Bear Township.There are a lot of schools in the district, so do your research and see which one will work best for your kids.  You can look at sites like Great Schools or Niche.com, but schools welcome visitors that want to tour and get questions answered before making a decision.

Parks

White bear lake is home to 24 parks including access to docks at the lake, a disc golf course, and access to Bald Eagle-Otter Lakes Park which is one of 4 Ramsey County regional parks. This park has a playground, boat launch, fishing pier, access to the Tamarack Nature Center and an off-leash dog area. If you’re looking for swimming, White Bear Lake County park has a swimming beach, this park is located just north of the downtown area. 

A city in Minnesota couldn’t hold up it’s head if they didn’t have an ice arena – White Bear Lake is home to the Sports Center Ice Arena where you can participate in or watch the state sport of MN – ice hockey – or for those without the urge to body check someone simply some ice skating. You don’t have to be a member to use the ice here, it’s pay as you go!

Hey – if you have questions about anything real estate or living in the Twin Cities related, let me know! I’m happy to help!

Neighborhood Tours · small towns and exurbs · Uncategorized

Buffalo MN

Whenever I venture out into the hinterlands for a client, I like to get some video and some information on that community for my clients but also so I can pass it along to YOU.  Today I’ll show you around Buffalo, MN.  It’s a small city in the western exurbs of Minneapolis and a great option if you like a small town feel, lake culture and yet still want to be within about a 35 mile drive of the cities.

I ended up out in Buffalo for the reason I think a lot of people may end up out in Buffalo! My clients were interested in getting a lot of house and the prices are more affordable out there, they were also excited about the prospect of being able to avoid “bidding wars” on pre-existing homes by buying new construction. Most new construction in the Twin Cities is going to be on the outer edges of the cities where buildable land is still available. 

When I went out there I met the agent representing the builder and was chatting with him about what is drawing people to Buffalo and his impression was that a lot of people discover it when they become priced out of homes in northwest suburbs like Maple Grove for the size and style of home that they are looking for.  I pulled the median prices for Buffalo and the MEDIAN price is $329k for a single family home. For comparison’s sake the median price in Maple Grove is $375K and for the twin cities REGION which I believe includes 14 counties it is $340K.  

Digging a little deeper I found that right now there are only 39 homes for sale in Buffalo, fully 30% of those are under construction or completed new builds. Prices range from the very lowest end for a townhouse at $250K up to a 120 acre horse farm with a circa 1900 farm house priced at $1.5 million.  If you’re interested in a big house with lake frontage there were a couple of these homes hovering around the million dollar plus mark as well, but MOST homes are much more reasonably priced. 

Where the in the heck is Buffalo?  Well, head about 35 miles north and west of Minneapolis on rt 55 and you’ll drive right past. If you need to be at the airport for any reason you should plan for about a 50 minute drive to get to MSP airport on the south side of Minneapolis. 

Things that I found charming about Buffalo were the shops in the historic business district right on beautiful and large Buffalo Lake. The city still has their post office, library (1 of 30 in the Great River Library District), and other city services right there in the center of town. The one that really caught my eye because I have a thing for books and coffee was the charming and aptly named Buffalo Books and Coffee. I would be a regular if I lived out there! Unfortunately I think Covid may have killed the movie theater, but there are quite a few restaurants either of the chain variety or local favorites within the city limits – not all downtown.  

If you have children they will attend the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose schools, when I looked at Niche.com to check out the district it looked like they are rated a solid B or B+. 

The good people of Buffalo have quite a few options for grocery shopping they can choose from Cub which is a large regional chain, they also have a Walmart Supercenter, a Target, and one of the smaller local grocery stores called Coburns Market. 

I like to see if cities allow fencing and chickens because I always get asked. Fences, la la la … the usual. Get a permit, 4′ facing the street and 6′ in back.  When I looked up chickens I was pretty shocked because the answer was short and sweet but the combination of animals was a little odd – Buffalo stipulates that you may not have a mountain lion or chickens and they phrase it as “no wild animals”.  I think this may need some clarification and may be contingent  on how large your lot size is at least as far as the chickens go – I can’t imagine the city having an issue with chickens on a 120 acre horse farm. 

Another somewhat unusual feature of Buffalo is that they have a small municipal airport. So if your hobby is flying – this would be a really nice convenience for you.

About the airport: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Municipal_Airport_(Minnesota)

Buffalo likes to party and they have a lot of events every year including things like an Arts and Crafts show, a rodeo, the week long Buffalo Days with marching bands, a carnival and a beer garden, you can jump in the lake if you compete in the annual Buffalo Triathlon (or anytime you want to I suppose) there are free concerts in the park all summer, and in the winter they have a Kites on Ice celebration.  There were a lot of other events listed as well, for a small city they seem to have a lot going on.

The Buffalo Chamber of Commerce has a nice calendar of events!

Other things to do out this way are to go apple picking at one of the orchards or stop at Buffalo Rock WInery or the Hayes Public House and Brewery for some sips. 

I can’t leave out the parks!  Buffalo has 4 larger regional parks as well as 24 community parks. They have a golf course, a dog park, and a skate park.  The parks offer bicycle and boat rentals so you can enjoy the paths or the water and they have trails for fat tire bikes or snow shoeing for winter activites.

Check out my YouTube Channel to see more community profiles on my Neighborhoods and Suburbs or Exurbs and Small Towns playlists!  

Home Buying · Home equity · home selling · Uncategorized

What is an “appraisal gap”? and why does my agent keep talking about covering it?!?!

Does the phrase “appraisal gap” strike terror in your heart? Or leave you scratching your head? What about hearing tales of “appraisal guarantees” that are often needed when you’re a buyer in this seller’s market?  If you’re a buyer or seller and you’re not spending every waking (and sleeping!) moment thinking about the real estate market, you may be confused about what these terms mean for you, and they may feel a little scary. Knowledge is power, so let’s talk about what an “appraisal gap” is and what an “appraisal guarantee” means for a buyer or a seller. 

If you’ve watched any of my market update videos you’ve heard one thing reiterated and that is that we are in a historically strong sellers market.  We have a lot of buyers competing for every home and that means that we nearly always have multiple offers and those offers are often for well over list price as buyers do whatever they can to beat the competition. 

On the surface you may wonder “how can that be a problem”? if you’re paying with CASH it’s not a problem, you can pay any price you choose to pay for something as long as you can show that you have the funds available to do it. This is a big reason why cash buyers have an advantage right now, the price is the price and the seller doesn’t have to worry about the bank’s appraised value. 

However 80+% of people are NOT cash buyers, they have to get a mortgage for their home purchase and as part of that loan the bank will hire an independent appraiser to look at the property and determine if it’s worth the amount they are loaning you for it. They don’t want to be stuck with worthless collateral to sell if you default on your loan. This evaluation of value is called an “appraisal”.

Sometimes your mortgage lender’s appraiser says the house IS worth less than you agreed to pay. This is known as an appraisal gap or a low appraisal.

I sometimes hear buyers with high loan approval amounts suggest that it might be a good strategy to buy a lower priced home and just throw a large amount of money at it because they can qualify for a loan of that size, but that still doesn’t eliminate the issues around homes appraising for the value of the loan.  And really, appraisals exist for this very reason.

Options as a buyer

What are your options as the buyer if you’re worried that the appraisal will come in lower than what you have offered? after all – Sellers want to get the price you’ve offered in the contract whether or not the appraiser says it’s worth that amount as loan collateral. 

The option that has been most successful with sellers is writing appraisal gap coverage or an appraisal guarantee into the contract for the purchase of the house.  We are seeing this happen about 45% of the time now and it is getting to be more common as the market continues to be tight.  

What this essentially means is that you will put a larger down payment on the home which bridges the gap between what you’ve offered and what the bank is willing to loan and preserves your ability to finance the purchase and close on the home. 

A typical home purchase contract has an appraisal contingency: wording that says the buyer can call off the deal if the property appraises for lower than the buyer offered. But in hot real estate markets, where buyers outnumber sellers, some buyers waive the appraisal contingency. These buyers either pay cash for the home or gamble that they have money to pay the difference between the appraised value and the price, however much that may be.

rather than waiving the Appraisal contingency entirely, offering to cover the gap on a low appriasal is the middle path. You’re offering some amount that you will make up via a larger down payment.

Take the example of the $120,000 offer on the $100,000 home that has a $10,000 difference between the purchase price and the appraised value:

  • If you had offered to cover an appraisal gap up to $10,000, you would proceed with the purchase, bringing that extra $10,000 as a larger down payment.
  • If you had offered to cover an appraisal gap up to $5,000, you would be entitled to withdraw your offer and get your earnest money deposit back. That’s because the difference between the offered price and the appraised value is greater than the $5,000 appraisal gap coverage.

At this point, the seller may wish to negotiate with you to keep the transaction in tact and they may agree to lower the price by the remaining $5000.00 difference, or they may choose to go to the next buyer.

You’re more likely to succeed when offering appraisal gap coverage if you include proof of funds to do this as well.

If you’re lucky, you may not have to worry about appraisal at all. The bank may waive the required appraisal if they can see market conditions support it and that the buyer is bringing 20% or more as the down payment.  This means that they look at the market data and determine that the property is likely worth the purchase price, but you will not know this until you’re closer to closing. 

Things to think about

A couple of things to add as you consider whether or not to do this on your next purchase agreement:

Think about the home you’re buying, it’s condition, price, and location and what you’re willing to do to purchase that home. You want to be doing this for a home that will hold or appreciate in value.

Because of the market conditions, home prices nationally increased over 14% year over year. Median home prices in Minneapolis and the Twin cities went up 10.9% year over year according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.

Put that into perspective with your purchase.

If you are buying a home priced at $100,000 today and prices continue on their current path, that home would be valued at $111,000 a year from now.

If you’ve agreed to make up $5000, or $10,000 in low appraisal, the likelihood that you will be “whole” in a short period of time is there.

Another consideration is whether or not you will be able to afford a home in a year or two if this continues and if interest rates continue to rise.

So, it’s a math problem. Never been a big fan of math problems, but looking at it this way really adds some clarity and perspective. 

Reach out with questions! I’m always happy to help.

Home Buying · home selling · market updates · Uncategorized

Minneapolis Housing Market 2022 Forecast

Hi and happy new year! Who wants to start the year off with some DATA and a look at what the real estate market is doing PLUS what I believe will happen with the housing market in 2022? I actually LOVE data – it tells a very clear story, so let’s dive in and take a look at what that data is telling us. 

Prefer to watch rather than read this? 😉


I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you what is going to happen to the real estate market in 2022, I don’t, but I will make some educated guesses! In addition to that I’m going to share with you what the offers that have been accepted have looked like in the past month.

I like that info because it is ALSO a gauge for how strong the market is – what are sellers wanting to see and what are buyers willing to do to win?

Sisyphus at work


in 2021, being a buyer (or a buyer’s agent!) could feel like pushing a boulder up hill. It was hard, tiring, a little stressful but it was ultimately satisfying if everyone hung in there (I’m stubborn – I don’t quit). 

It’s me. I’m stubborn like a mule.

The market was really rough for buyers because demand for homes here is HIGH and supply is LOW.  I think many of us went into this winter hoping for a bit of a break on the horizon, but the numbers are not making it look like that will be the case. 


Inventory of homes was really low LAST January first – historically low! and as of the first week of january this year we have 15% fewer listings on the market to choose from than we did then.  We are still in a ridiculously strong seller’s market. 

Fun fact – the last time the market was considered “balanced” in the twin cities was 10 years ago. It has favored sellers ever since and doesn’t seem to be lightening up at all. 

As a colleague said today, there is a lot of national press saying that the market is loosening up but the numbers tell a different story. 

It’s important to look at DATA for the market you’re in and understand what that means for your situation. So let’s look at the data for the twin cities – you know that price is a function of supply and demand, and we have already established that supply is low. It has been consistently low for years and the recent challenges with supply chain and lumber prices are not helping supply to correct that quickly.  It’s going to be a long term process. 

Absorption Rate

Realtors look at how many months supply we have of homes available to sell if NO OTHER HOMES ARE LISTED in order to determine what kind of market we are in – 5-6 months is considered a balanced market, fewer months worth of inventory favor sellers and the smaller the number of months the more strongly it favors them, and vice versa for buyers.


Currently, the total months supply we have now including ALL property types is 8/10 of one month.  .8 months is WAAAAAY less than 5-6 months.

If you break this down further you see that single family homes are at .7 months supply this year (one year ago we had 9/10’s of a month), Condos have been the softer spot and currently have a 1.6mo supply down significantly from a year ago when we had 2.8 months, and townhomes are just like single family homes with .7 now vs .9 a year ago. 

An interesting thing to me is that high end homes are seeing the market tighten up a lot now too. That area had more wiggle room last year, but it looks like that is no longer the case.

Broken down by price point

Median price by property type


If we take a look at prices we see what this high demand has done over the course of a year, single family homes are at a median price of $360,000 UP 10% year over year from $326,300 (emphasizing that this is a MEDIAN price for the entire metro area, obviously prices range widely!)

Townhomes show a similar increase of 8% from $240,000 a year ago to $259,900 now.

Condos despite being the soft spot ALSO rose in price – they are at $191,000 up 11.6% from $171,000 a year ago. 

Demand side of the equation

The other side of the equation is DEMAND. What leads to this high demand? 

A couple of things that I can think of the first of which are the low interest rates. The Fed is talking about raising them this year but even if they do, these changes are typically incremental as they test to see the effect on the markets for everything – not JUST homes.

If the rates rise a bit – even to 4%? will that tamp down the demand for homes?

I personally don’t think it will have an enormous effect, the demand is so high, and even 4% or 5% are STILL low interest rates. In the past I have paid interest at 8.25% for my first home, 6.5% for my second, we paid 4% and thought we had a steal when we moved to MN! Yes, we refinanced when the rates dipped again, but you get my point. It’s relative, and people want a place to live that belongs to THEM and gives them essentially rent control and a predictable expense PLUS the joys of having your own home.

The second factor in demand is the fact that a very large bubble of millenials is aging into a time when they want to do the things that people do in early adulthood – get married, have a family, BUY A HOUSE.  This bubble, or boom, is driving demand for homes.

Tips for BUYERS

If you are thinking of selling, your property will likely get scooped up VERY quickly this year. If you are thinking of jumping into the pool to BUY, I have some advice:  

1. Understand that you are going to be in a difficult situation, you aren’t the only one looking at a house and if you decide to offer on it you will be competing with many other people.  Do your best. 

2.) steal yourself for the process. If you don’t get the first home you offer on, it will likely hurt a bit, get back in the saddle and try again.  SOMEONE wins every one of those multiple offer situations – that someone CAN be you. You just need to have the chops to hang in there and keep swinging. If I’m working with you, I’m going to have your back every step of the way and help you present your offer in a way that makes the seller say – YES – that one! 

3.) very important! Look at homes listed UNDER your max price.  Almost NOTHING goes for list price right now, so you need to put yourself in a position of being able to offer over list.  

4.) A corollary to #3 is that you should save as much cash as possible so that you have that wiggle room to cover appraisal gaps or increase a budget and put a smaller percentage down if you need to. 

5.) lastly, don’t stop looking at the times when everyone else has stopped looking! If it’s a holiday or WINTER, now is a good time to look because you are competing with fewer buyers even if the supply is lower, too.  I love to look on holiday weekends – sign me up for Memorial Day!  I’ve not really had a break over the Christmas season this year because listings are selling now as well as buyers getting homes while everyone else is hung over from too much egg nog. STAY IN THE GAME. Take advantage of the situation. 

Offers that are getting accepted NOW

Let’s look at what types of offers are getting accepted right now according to Home Free Transaction Coordinators – what are sellers looking for and buyers offering in the effort to get a home? 

Offer Acceptance Rate: 52% this indicates multiple offers to me. We have been quite low on this in the recent past – under 30%

Inspections were Waived 30% of the time – summer was over 50%, now seems like a good time to buy if you REALLY want an inspection

Pre-MLS Sales: 4.4%, these are sales that happen off market, private network of agents marketing them to each other.

Average Purchase to List Price is the lowest I’ve seen this year at 100.87%, this was up around 105% in summer!

Financing Types: 

Cash 19% – this is the highest I’ve seen and I can say that it reflects my own personal experience recently.

Conventional loans 73% – still the big daddy, and always will be.

FHA 2% still tough to get these accepted and that kind of stinks, but when you’re going up against cash, I can’t blame a seller.

VA 4% this is the highest I have seen in a year at least.

USDA 1%, 

Other 1%

Seller contribution to Closing Costs: 37.8%, this can be in lieu of fixing something.

Home Warranties included in the sale 5.6%

Offers Contingent Upon the Sale of the Buyer’s Property are at 6.7% – this is actually DOWN quite a bit, I believe not too long ago it was around 10-12%. Try to avoid this of possible. It’s really tough to get accepted.

If you’re exploring communities, check out my neighborhoods and suburbs playlist on YouTube to take a look at different areas of the metro. 

Let me know if you have questions or comments – love to hear from you!

Uncategorized

Savage MN – a bit of a secret on the south side…

Check out my video if you want an “in-person” look…

The city of Savage wasn’t named for anything terrifying – it’s actually named after Marion Willis Savage. Marion Savage owned the champion race horse  “Dan Patch” in the early 1900’s and if you live in or move to MN you will likely hear that name from time to time.  If you know the origins you’ll be ahead of nearly 90% of the people that live there! You’re welcome!

There is a street on the State Fair grounds named after the horse and Prior Lake HS (which serves kids from Savage) named their football stadium after the horse as well. 

harnessmuseum.com

Savage is what I would consider a bedroom community (if you haven’t heard that term before it simply means a place that people live but don’t work there).

I stopped into the library to check it out and while I was in there I spoke with the librarian to see if I was missing something – a central downtown that I had somehow overlooked?? The librarian agreed with me that Savage is really a community that just grew up in the farm fields as the area near Minneapolis developed rather than growing up around a central downtown.

“City center”

Location and commute times.

So Savage is by definition, NOT a walkable community, cars will be a major part of your life in Savage. 

Instead of a downtown area, there is one central point that I would consider the “civic center” of Savage. You’ll find the Savage library (which is large, modern and pretty – it seems like an enjoyable place to spend some time), the town hall, the post office,& the police and fire stations all in this one area.

A bonus that I noticed when looking at their web site, the city offers free notary services to residents. That could be your tipping point when weighing your options! 

Housing

Before I ventured out to Savage I looked at the homes listed in the MLS to get a sense of the range and what types were available for sale right now – there are some really beautiful townhomes that are in the low to mid $200’s, and prices go up to the mid $700’s for homes. The most expensive listing right now in Savage is for the remnants of a farm and will likely be sold for land development at close to $1M. 

Single family home prices in Savage Sept 2021
Median price for townhomes in Savage September 2021
I added this because I think there is good value in moderately sized homes.

Shopping

Shopping in Savage is limited to a few smaller shopping centers as compared to nearby Burnsville which has an abundance of stores, shopping centers, chain restaurants and a mall.  If you live in Savage you’re likely to get your groceries at the Super Target, the HyVee or Cub Foods. If you like Costco like I like Costco, rest assured that there is one Savage adjacent in Burnsville. 

Savage is mainly residential but there is a LOT of shopping in Burnsville!

Schools

Savage is served by 3 different school districts, so again, this is a case where if you have a preference for a particular school district you should verify the school boundaries and that your home lies within the district that you want to have.  The three districts that serve Savage are:

  • Prior Lake – Savage district 719
  • Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district 191
  • Shakopee District 720. 

There are 6 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 1 high school serving Savage.  In addition, Savage has a Spanish immersion school, an alternative school, and 2 early learner schools. 

Parks

black and brown miniature schnauzer lying on green grass field
Photo by Sebastian Coman Travel on Pexels.com

Savage does have a few parks, and I think that there are often play lots for kids in the subdivisions, but they may lean heavily on the regional park that borders the south side of the city – Murphy-Hanrehan Park.

It’s a very large park and it made me think a bit of my other favorite regional Park – Lebanon Hills in Eagan. The Park offers a LOT of activities – Boating, Camping, Single Track Mountain Biking, Fishing, Hiking, Snowshoeing, Snow Mobiling, x-ctry Ski Trails, and 2 off leash dog parks – you can buy a day or an annual pass for the dog parks.  One of the dog parks at Cleary Lake allows the pups to go for a swim. Savage does have one other dog park (I believe this one is part of the Savage Park district rather than the regional park, but it is Free. 

Unlike other suburbs, Savage doesn’t have an aquatic center or anything like that, but they have a partnership with LifeTime Fitness for use of their indoor and outdoor pools. 

Property Taxes

For this one I will defer to the Scott County MN web site because property taxes in Savage vary by which school district the home is in and the value of the home. So you can get an estimated rate quite easily on their site if you are curious as to how they vary. 

Fences, Chickens and BEES

And to answer my always asked questions: YES you CAN have a fence! The city regulates the type, workmanship and height depending on where it will be on your property, so you’ll have to check that out.  Also – YES – you can have YARD BIRDS.  Chickens and BEEKEEPING are allowed. 

Savage is a great place to consider if you want a quieter lifestyle & don’t particularly care if the city provides a bunch of amenities which you may be able to easily access in nearby communities.  If you want a relatively easy commute to either Minneapolis or St. Paul, or need to be able to get to the airport without a lot of hassle, this is a good option. Home prices in Savage are more affordable in pockets than they are in other parts of the metro and may be a good place to look if you are a first time buyer or if you just don’t have thee budget to live in other more expensive areas of the city. 

Uncategorized

FOOD

A friend of mine who really enjoys cooking said that she did not think there was a “Midwestern” cuisine. I (and James Beard award winning Minnesotan & chef, Amy Thielen) disagree. This post won’t necessarily be about the foods that Amy has elevated, although she’s taken some of these stand-bys and made them into something special. This post is about the foods Minnesotan’s crave.

I’m going to start with the #1 all time fave and famous dish:

“Hotdish” with tots. This one is Minnesota ALL THE WAY. People here rave about it. I’m still skeptical, but I tend to keep that to myself.

Hotdish is Minnesota for casserole. But I think most probably think of this particular casserole when they say it. It’s a ground beef, cream of celery soup (you know you’re in the Midwest if they are putting a can of Campbell’s soup in the recipe), mixed vegetables – pretty sure green beans and corn are standard, cheese and then topped off with Tater Tots and baked up in the oven for what *I* actually would refer to as “mofungo”. I eat Mofungo no problem, but I haven’t eaten this particular Mofungo.

photo of person holding ice cream
Photo by Sittisak C on Pexels.com

Dairy Queen. AKA DQ. You cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a Dairy Queen here. Not that I would want to swing a dead cat. It’s JUST A SAYING. Anyway – DQ, home of the Dilly Bar, the Blizzard and all the other frozen treats + fast food type chow as well. DQ is headquartered here in Minneapolis and their presence is ubiquitous. If you ask my daughter what her favorite restaurant is she will say DQ. And she’s never eaten an actual meal there, just had blizzards and ice cream. Some areas of the country close their DQ’s in winter, we do NOT. The beauty is that many are these cute little walk-up stands with picnic tables. It feels right to eat ice cream that way.

smiling ethnic girl eating corn against wooden house
Photo by Zen Chung on Pexels.com

Corn. Sweet corn on the cob specifically. It’s not technically ripe here til late July, but other Midwestern states get the jump on us and we pretend we are eating local sweet corn until we are actually able to. Summer in many homes = corn on the cob with butter and salt several nights a week. It always makes me nostalgic for my childhood when you could go get some from our local farmer. He would put grocery bags with a dozen ears each in them and a coffee can on the picnic table and it was the honor system that you would drop a couple bucks in there per bag.

mother and child preparing crepes
Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

Lefse. Lefse are an unleavened crepe / pancake usually made with potatoes. They are eaten as a substitute for bread or can be stuffed with things like ham and cheese, salmon and cream cheese or sweet with cinnamon and sugar.

plate of fries and burger
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Juicy Lucy. Whatever you do, do not sit directly across from someone eating a Juicy Lucy. A Juicy Lucy is a hamburger with the cheese on the INSIDE. It guarantees that the cheese remains molten for a long time and also guarantees that it is a high probability that it will come flying out the other side of the burger. A friend had her suede jacket destroyed by someone eating one of these at the table next to ours. Fair warning. Just get your cheese on top. No need to be weird(er).

The next two are products of the Great Minnesota Get Together aka the State Fair. The more I add to this list the more I feel like I’m going to be the target of a hit because I’m not singing love songs to the native foods. I don’t love the fair. It is SO CROWDED and SO EXPENSIVE. But if you’re there you will likely be eating a Pronto Pup with a side gallon bucket of Sweet Martha’s. In English this means a corn dog and a gallon bucket of chocolate chip cookies.

Wild rice… this is an indigenous food here in MN. It grows wild in the lakes and the traditional way to harvest is by bending the rice over the side of a canoe with a stick and knocking the rice into the boat. Then the rice is dried or parched. This rice is a thin, black grain, not the white stuff you buy in the store. It’s often mixed with meat in burgers, added to hot dish or served in chicken and wild rice soup – delicious.

Walleye. Walleye is a mild tasting freshwater fish. People love it – fishing for walleye is a major hobby here in Lake Superior and Lake Mille Lacs, and you’ll see it on the menus around town.

fresh ripe apples placed on wooden chopping board
Photo by Skylar Kang on Pexels.com

Honey Crisp Apples. The university of MN breeds apple varieties and one the most popular types that people can’t seem to get enough of is the Honey Crisp. The name fits the apple – its the perfect blend of sweet and crisp, but with a mildly tart edge to it. This is the famous one, but I’m going to make a pitch for one of the newer apples on the scene – the SweetTango – yum! My favorite! A super crisp and flavorful apple. Be wary of the “pick your own” places – it’s fun to do especially with little kids but you may quickly find yourself with $100 worth of apples and a big job in front of you when you get home…

startribune.com

Grainbelt Beer: The Friendly Beer. This is not a beer for snobs. I love beer, I love craft beers and the breweries and I love this beer on a really hot summer day. It’s a refreshing lager, but you can get their Nordeast version which is a wee bit heavier and falls into the amber lager category. Some of the hipsters may think they are ironic having a Grainbelt (like the ironic hipsters drinking PBR’s in Cleveland or the Yling Yling drinkers in Pittsburgh), however you want to justify it.

“Salads”. There are no vegetables in this. It’s jello with fruits and nuts in it or marshmallow fluff and fruit. I just say no. Lots of people would say that is my loss, I’ll take the hit.

Bars. I may have mentioned these before. THESE I LIKE. Cookies without the pain in he butt of scooping them out. Bars are made in a 13×9 pan and cut into rectangles. They come in a million flavors and all are good and made with efficiency.

Last thing… Top the Tater. Slavish devotion is lavished on what I basically think of as French onion dip. It’s good.

Living in Minneapolis · Neighborhood Tours · small towns and exurbs · Uncategorized

“Cows, colleges and contentment”. What is going on in Northfield MN?

Do small towns appeal to you? I love them. They make me think of community and knowing your neighbors and the businesspeople in town. Especially when they have a charming, walkable, central area with great shops and restaurants where people will gather. Let’s see what is going on in Northfield MN!

Even better, in my opinion, is when the town is the home to a college – or in this case, two colleges! Having students and academic institutions around do a lot for small town life. It brings the energy of youth, the cultural pursuits of the college, and it also pumps the local economy full of money spent by students, teachers and staff.

Northfield MN is home to St. Olaf College (approximately 3000 students) as well as Carleton College (approximately 2000 students). Both are private, competitive, liberal arts schools founded in the 1800’s.

Northfield is located on the banks of the Cannon River and the downtown area centers itself on that feature. It was founded in 1855 and the charm of the historic downtown reflects the long history. Watch my video so you can get a live look at the downtown. It’s cute!

Photo of the river in downtown Northfield from Tripadvisor

Northfield Parks

For a small town, Northfield has a LOT of parks! There are 30 city parks!

Northfield has a dog park right on the river, 6 outdoor skating rinks in the winter and the Northfield Ice Arena for year round hockey and skating.

In downtown Northfield you’ll find Bridge Square which is the heart of the city and the site of summer concerts and festivals like the “Defeat of Jesse James Days” fest in September of every year – Northfield’s claim to fame is that the James gang once tried to rob the bank in downtown! Nothing like a little armed robbery to encourage an annual festival…

In addition to typical parks, Northfield has 10 soccer fields at the Spring Creek Soccer Complex, a public pool with a low daily price – I think I read $4.75 / day?!? at the Old Memorial Pool. Sign me up! Our pool up here is closer to $15/day. cray. If baseball is your thing – you will likely be playing at the Sechler Athletic complex home to 4 baseball fields and adjacent to the Mill Towns Trail.

From the state DNR site: “When complete, the Mill Towns State Trail will connect the cities of Faribault, Dundas, Northfield, Waterford, Randolph, and Cannon Falls, for a distance of approximately 25 miles. The trail will be an important link in the developing southeast Minnesota trail system, connecting the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail in Faribault with the western end of the Cannon Valley Trail in Cannon Falls.” I love a good trail! If you live in Minnesota, chances are good that you do too.

Awards- Northfield brings home the bling

Northfield racks up the awards, they clearly have the attention of those who like to rank cities. If you check out the city web site you’ll find a comprehensive list, but there were multiple mentions for things like “Best Cities to Live in America” and “Safest Cities MN”.

Northfield MN Schools

Niche.com gives the Northfield schools and overall grade of “A”. The district consists of 3 elementary schools: Sibley, Bridgewood & Greenvale Park with a total enrollment of around 1600 students and a student teacher ratio of 16:1. The elementary students then move on to Northfield Middle School & Northfield High School – each also graded “A” by Niche.com.

Demographics – who lives in Northfield?

Median household income in Northfield is higher than the national average at $70,148. The population of Northfield is around 20,000 people.

67% of residents are homeowners and the median single family home price is less than the twin cities metro median, but on a consistent rise over the past 3 years.

I also pulled information for townhomes. Those prices are HIGHER than the median in the twin cities… maybe a function of supply and demand?

Northfield Public Library

Image courtesy of the Friends of the Northfield Public Library

The Northfield library is right in the heart of downtown. It is in yet another historic looking building but the interior is throughly bright and modern. They finished an interior renovation in 2016, but kept the exterior in the character of this charming town. It was originally built in 1908 with a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie! Interesting bit of historical trivia.

Grocery Stores that serve the Northfield area

I did a video on Twin Cities groceries and now I’m adding this to everything… I love food. Knowing what shopping options there are (especially in a small town!) is important to me, so with that in mind I will now unveil the map o’ food:

I think because it’s a college town of relatively decent size, they have a good amount of options from budget choices like ALDI, to Cub & Target and up near the center of town is the co-op. I don’t know what a Minnesota town would be like without a natural foods co-op. It’s a thing here.

Senior Citizens

I kind of stumbled on this while I was researching but wow! I think this looks like such a great resource for the no longer spring chickens… Northfield has a senior center that has an absolutely gorgeous gym, classes in the arts and a bunch of continuing ed / lifelong learning classes. It seems like such a great resource for community and fun. I hate the thought of anyone staying put in their homes when there are options like this available. Check out FiftyNorth.

Other Attractions in Northfield…

The Flaten Art Museum resides on the campus of St. Olaf College and is devoted to the visual arts.

The Cowling Arboretum is a part of Carleton College. It is 800 acres of land that is open dawn to dusk daily to enjoy the outdoors. They do have trails for cross country skiing in winter!

The Goodsell Observatory is on the campus of Carleton College and is such a beautiful old building. In normal (non-covid times) the Goodsell offers open houses for people to come in and take a look. Looking forward to having that option again (soon)!

Goodsell Observatory image from mortarr.com

I think that’s it?

Northfield has a LOT going on for a town this size. I start these profiles thinking it will be short and sweet and end up finding more and more as I look. It’s great because I now feel like I have a good bit of knowledge about a lot of places around the twin cities – I love that for me, but I really love that it helps me help other people who are trying to figure out where they want to live.

Home Buying · home selling · Uncategorized

I had other plans for this week’s post…

Next week I’ll give you another neighborhood profile – I’m excited about my small town series, and I have one I love and plan to talk about, but this week I’m going to beat a dead horse a bit and talk some more about what is happening in the real estate market in the Twin Cities metro area. I don’t usually do “market update” posts or videos on my YouTube channel, but the fact of the matter is that right now I’m actively helping 6 buyers try to navigate this market and I want to share a bit of how we look at the market and measure it and then also show you what that means for the Twin Cities right now.

I swear … it was this big!

I feel like anecdotal evidence about how many offers a listing gets, how fast something sells or how far over list price the offers are is shocking at times or maybe sounds like a fish tale that we like to tell – “the big one that got away” kind of thing. Stories are great and interesting, but in this post I want to talk about DATA. Weee! Exciting!

Not exciting? Well, I disagree. I think this tells a very clear story and because it looks at the entire market and then breaks it down by price it might tell the story in a way that makes sense in a different way to more people. This is the WHY behind the HOW that I’ve talked about before when I’ve done videos/posts about making the best offer.

How DATA tells you if it is a buyer or a seller’s market: Meet the “Absorption Rate”

These are my words, not something from a real estate dictionary somewhere.

When we look at a market and try to decide who it favors we look at the number of active listings available in a 30 day period and then look at the sales. It’s a ratio. But the way that I think is easiest to visualize this ratio is as the “absorption rate”. This rate shows us how long it would take for ALL houses actively listed to be sold if NO OTHER homes were put on the market during that time.

We are measuring time in months for this exercise, and the magic number of months where REALTORS feel that the market is in balance is 5 (not set in stone, some argue for 6 months etc). This means that when it would take 5 months for every home to be sold should no other homes be listed, the market does not favor either a buyer OR a seller.

Any number smaller than 5 indicates a sellers market. The smaller the number the more it favors sellers. This works in the converse as well, the LARGER the number over 5 the more the market favors buyers.

What is the Twin Cities absorption rate today?

Emphasis on TODAY because this rate changes seasonally and with market forces – I’ll talk a bit about what those are too.

The current absorption rate for the Twin Cities metro is 0.86. LESS than one month’s supply of homes. Very much in the favor of the seller. And it is not getting better – in the past 6 weeks the rate has consistently decreased from 1.32 the first week of January to where we are today.

The last half of 2020 was a crazy market, due to Covid hitting in spring and the uncertainty that brought with it there was a lull in what would typically be the busy spring market, but once everyone got their bearings it was off to the races and it never really slowed, even during the holidays. Add extremely low interest rates into the mix (under 3% for a pretty extended stretch), and a bubble of Gen Y aging into home ownership and bumping up what was already high demand from buyers, and things have just not cooled at all. All of this to say we sold a LOT of homes last year and possibly ate into what would have been inventory for this year. January 2021 started with 38% FEWER listings than we had in January 2020.

Supply continues to drop, particularly in the under $300K price range where new listings are down 15% YTD. The over all market YTD has 6.9% fewer listings. If you’ve taken any economics classes at all you’ll know that price is a function of supply and demand. We have low supply and high demand and that is pushing prices higher as people bid against each other for homes.

Absorption rate by price point

The best way to show this is to give you a screen shot of the table that we looked at in our data meeting this week. I love this table because it breaks it out by general price points and you can see the trend over the past 9-10 months for each. You’ll notice that higher price points have slightly looser markets because there are fewer buyers that can manage those budgets. I do think that the $500-$1M may need to be broken up a bit because at $500K there is still a quite a large bubble of buyers that are able to enter the market and compete for homes at that price. There may be a break closer to the mid $600’s where the ratio gets closer to 1.4, but I think $500 is still quite competitive.

credit to Tim Sipprell who pulled this together for our office
baby data geek

So, that is the data geek light version of the market at this point in time in the Twin Cities. An opportunity again for me to encourage you to be as prepared as you possibly can be before you enter the fray. You really need to be in the best position possible if you want to land at the top of the heap when you get into this market.

Let me know if you have questions… 🙂