market updates

Twin Cities housing market update – June & a bit o’ July 2021

Is the feeding frenzy OVER?!? Not quite, but it seems to be a LOT better? Of course that is relative! and in this case I mean relative to the crazy times we were in in March – May!

In this video and blog post I’m giving you the current conditions of the market for the 7 county Twin Cities area broken down by property type and then I’ll go into a bit about what we see as far as what terms are resulting in accepted offers right now. These are the encouraging signs I’ve been looking for!

This year has definitely been one for the books! It has been the strongest sellers market that anyone I know can remember – and this is AMAZING if you have a home to SELL! Prices are higher than ever and you can dictate the terms for the MOST part – HOWEVER! Buyers! Do not despair!  Things ARE getting easier for you now (at least compared to a couple of months ago when it was an all out SCRUM!)

A note about these graphs – I chose to make them show monthly ups and downs without the smoothing effect that softens the seasonal aspects, so keep that in mind as you look at the dips and heights. the market changes constantly, and this shows those changes month to month.

The median SFH price in the Twin Cities sits at $380,000 – that is UP from $326,100 at the beginning of this year.

Median Price TC Metro Single family Homes


You’ll often hear me talk about the “absorption rate” or the # of months supply of housing available to be sold if no other homes were to go on the market. For context it is considered a BALANCED market if there is 5-6 months of supply.  We have been UNDER 1 month for different segments of the market for much of this year, mainly anything under about about $600K. Right now we are STILL at .8 months for anything under about $400k.  For single family homes in general we are at a little over 1 month’s supply of homes. 

Months supply of Single Family Homes

Homes are only on the market for FIVE DAYS!!! a year and a half ago it was FOURTY FIVE! And only 6 months ago around 20!   So still homes are still flying off the market. 

Days on market – SFH

Let’s look at the 2 softer spots – Townhomes and Condos. 

The median price for a townhome is consistent with the rest of the market rise in prices and is at $271,000 from $240,000 in January.

Median Price for Townhomes

For Townhomes there is a little uptick in supply and we have a full month available right now. 

Months supply of Townhomes

Condos! This is the place if you’re looking for any kind of deal! Sellers are negotiating! You can get an INSPECTION!   🙂
Condo prices are at $171,000 for a median price, up a similar amount from the beginning of the year as other property types are. 

Condo median price

The supply of condos is where the opportunity comes in – Still a sellers market but for people selling condos it can feel like a whole different world. There are 2.5 months worth of inventory available. This has dropped a small amount since January but has been relatively flat this year overall. 

Months supply of condos

Now let’s look at what kinds of offers are being accepted! 

This is a valuable bit of information that the Minnesota Transaction Coordinators gives us on a regular basis and I’ll add my 2 cents to about what I am seeing (although as a much smaller segment of the market)

Offer Acceptance Rate: 42%

Inspections Waived: 31% – we haven’t been in the 30% range since March 

My 2 cents: the last 6 contracts (this past month or so) that I have either written or accepted have had inspections included and accepted. that’s 100% of my sales in the past several weeks. I’ve been thrilled for my buyers and I am 100% fine with it for my seller as well because I feel like inspections protect EVERYONE, the buyer, the seller and ME.

Pre-market Sales that happen without hitting the MLS : 2.8%. This is DOWN from earlier this year! It was over 5% for quite a while – maybe due to pandemic fears about having too many people in a home?

Average Purchase to List Price: 102.7% – about the lowest it’s been since the spring market! 

Still great for sellers, but also good news for buyers! And a lesson to sellers about pricing appropriately. Things change, you want to not have YOUR home sit because it’s been priced too high as well as understanding that unless you have something really special that the insane bidding wars may be over for now.  

I have talked to many agents saying that showings are down from earlier this spring when agents were setting overlapping showings and having the home packed full of people for 12 hours per day.  Now there are private showings again. There may be open spaces in the calendar. More than one offer may come in but they aren’t seeing the literal STACKS of offers that they were before.  

Financing Types:

Cash 11.5%, which is higher than it’s been

Conventional 68.5%, – a little lower than its been 

FHA 8.5%, higher! 

VA 3%, Still a rough spot! People that use VA are often choosing it because it is a no downpayment loan, which means they are short on cash. If you can’t make appraisal gap guarantees, or add other sweeteners that need ready cash available this can be a VERY tough time to buy.

USDA 8.5% (this is a high number and I wonder if it is a function of the sample size that they had – if they had 2 transactions it could hit this #). These loans are generally for rural buyers.

Seller Paid Closing Costs: are at 12%

Home Warranties: 5.7% – I was able to negotiate this recently as well! 

Contingent Upon the Sale of the Buyer’s Property: 8.5% (this seems HIGH to me! I’m still cautious about having this particular contingency, it can be a real weak spot in an offer if you have any competition at all. I would avoid this at all costs or you may have to make it an offer they can’t refuse due to price, or magically find a seller that wants to stay a little longer.

And that is ALL for this week.  I’ll be back next week with some more neighborhood profiles. I’ve been AWOL due to this insane market and actually getting a vacation for the first time in YEARS. No regrets. 😉

See you then! 

Home Buying · home selling

March Real Estate Market Update

My last post & video about this were pretty well received, so even though numbers aren’t flashy, I’m going to try to make this a monthly feature as we navigate through this crazy market. This post has some good little nuggets in it if you’re in certain segments of the market, so stick with me.

A bright spot for buyers?!!

Last time I posted about the market I gave an overview of “absorption rates”, this is going to be a recurring theme, so if you want to check that out you can find that post here: https://twin-cities-living.com/2021/02/26/i-had-other-plans-for-this-weeks-post/

There is an obvious lag in the data because we need to look after homes close and that shows up in the MLS, but I do get some data relatively quickly thanks to Minnesota Transaction Coordinators, a company that helps many of us with processing our transactions.

Let’s start there with their analysis of terms that they see in contracts.

Inspections

In the past couple of months we’ve seen quite a few buyers deciding to waive the inspection in order to release one more contingency ahead of everyone else. By “a lot” I mean 38% of buyers were waiving inspection in the first 2.5 weeks of the month, but when they looked at the first through the 26th the rate went to 31%. That means that enough people have STOPPED waiving them to lower this percentage by 7%. Buyers are insisting on protecting themselves and sellers are acquiescing to that.

Offer acceptance rates

Even better, offer acceptance has gone from 31% for the month last week, to 39% for the month over all as of the 26th. YAY!!!! Sellers are accepting offers! I represent a lot of buyers and it has just been TOUGH. So this is great news.

Homes listed on the open market vs witheld

In an office as large as mine, we often hold listings off market and only market to agents within the office. This shrinks the pool of who looks at the house which is desirable for a lot of reasons – from Covid, to privacy, to simply wanting to not have to deal with the preparation and hassle of selling on the open market. Sellers can name their terms and if another agent has a buyer that can meet those, there is a happy meeting of the minds without all of the associated prep work, exposure, etc and everyone feels satisfied. The number of sales that they have worked on in this status is down to 5.6%. This is good because more homes are hitting the market than have been.

Percentage of list price received

Current purchase price to list price ratio is “down to” 104% from 105% last week. It has been hovering between 103% and 105% in the past couple of months. It’s good to have that number in mind, even though it’s not a fixed price, it’s an idea of what you should think about when offering on a property that has a lot of interest. Price is not the entirety of a an offer, there are a lot of other terms that need to be in line as well, but this is good info for this metric.

Seller paid closing costs

26% of deals include some seller paid closing costs. I have to assume in this market that the offer price was increased to account for these, but I like that we are seeing it because it means sellers are accepting these terms.

Forms of financing

76% of loans are conventional (you do NOT need 20% down for a conventional loan! These are viewed as more favorable and if you can get a conventional loan it’s one more check mark on the list of terms).

FHA loans represent 10% of the offers, CASH 10%, and VA & USDA loans are at 4%.

Traditionally, inventory really increases around this time of year (inventory = homes being listed and available for sale). We currently have less than HALF of the listings we had 6 months ago.

Good news for downtown condo buyers!

Downtown condos are in a balanced market right now! If you are looking for a condo in the central city including neighborhoods like Loring Park, Downtown, University, Dinkytown, Elliot Park etc… now is the time. We believe that this is caused by the pandemic and people wanting to live in less dense housing + fewer people needing to be downtown for work, but don’t expect it to last with the speedy rollout of vaccine and life returning to somewhat new normal.

Days on Market are up to 41 (only from 38), but these are the kinds of indicators that let buyers know that they will not likely have to pay more than list, that sellers will be willing to negotiate because they know you can find another condo to buy and someone will play ball with you.

So that is what is happening! Sellers are still mostly in control of things, but if you’re a downtown condo buyer you’re in the sweet spot!

Let me know if you have questions.

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… 🙂

Uncategorized

MINNESOTA IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a couple of reasons – the first is that I wonder if my enthusiasm for Minnesota leads to blinders about things that people may not like? And the other is me thinking about times when I have lived in other places and have just felt slightly “off”. I was OK there, but it really didn’t feel like MY place. So here are some things to think about before you make the leap!

Weather

It is no secret that Minnesota gets cold. It’s kind of our claim to fame. It’s also a topic that I sometimes hear talked about with some level of fear or worry. I suppose that is as valid of a feeling as any other, but in my experience if you look it in the face and just know that “hey – that’s a big part of living here” and prepare yourself, you’re a step ahead.

Figure out how you can make it work for you. Learn a new winter sport, decide that you like puffy, down-filled fashion statements, and, if you REALLY don’t like being outside (which I think is unfortunate – Minnesota is really beautiful, even in winter! It’s just not “glamorous” beautiful. And to me – that is a bonus!) anyway – if you REALLY don’t like being outside, then you’ll need to figure out ways that you can be happy by being inside. Finding a place to walk indoors, join a gym, find an indoor sports league – there are a lot of them for adults including fun games that aren’t insane (hi hockey! looking at you!) like pickleball.

Yes! I know I’m writing this during a pandemic and this is all limited right now, but hope in the form of a vaccine is on it’s way! Another side note that I hope looks super quaint super quick is that our state vaccinated more than 40,000 people in one day yesterday and numbers are going up quickly, so hopefully we can put this behind us.

The other thing that I have (easily) embraced in winter is seeking the cozy. We like to build a fire in the wood stove in the evening, light candles, have warm drinks – anything that gives you that cozy feeling at home. It can be hard to go out when it gets dark early in winter, but if you’re a person that likes and needs to be around a lot of people (when this is over) make sure you get that cozy feeling from the inside of a bar or restaurant.

If your brain is giving an existential scream at the thought of several months of cold… Minnesota may not be the right place for you.

Landscape

lots of the left side in the west, lots of the right in the north
LAKES everywhere, WATER everywhere

If you need to see mountains or rolling hills, this may not be the place for you. It’s not exactly flat, but the south & western side of the state is nearly flat. It’s farm land for the most part and that part of the state is bordering on the beginning of the Great Plains. The south and eastern side is more rolling as it is part of the “kettle moraine” area where the glaciers receded and left “puddles”. One of the towns I want to profile because I’m a little in love with what I’ve seen online (haven’t been there myself yet!) is Lanesboro, MN. Charming small town on a river, there are bluffs and lots of trees and interesting terrain.

The area that is probably most well known outside the city is the “north shore”. This is some wild country bordering Lake Superior and Canada in what we call the “arrowhead” of the state. Lots of dense forests, and not a lot of people once you’re outside of Duluth. Some of the towns up that way cater to people going out on the Boundary Waters. The northern part of the state has a lot of lakes and that is where people head on the weekends here, “up nort”.

*I* think the landscape is pretty, but I know people that have said they just feel too exposed without a lot of hills. To which I say – seek a home elsewhere where you can be happy!

Color

Lake Superior on the right … Split Rock Lighthouse

You have to be able to appreciate a more stark type of beauty to like living in MN – at least in the winter.

MN loses a lot of it’s color in winter too – it goes from very vibrantly colored deep green to fairly monochromatic. Winter makes me think in white, dark purples, violet and bright cold blue. Many times it’s also gray. We can go days in a row without a lot of sun, but plenty of clouds. You have to know that you’ll have those days. The silver lining to it is that clouds hold in the heat, so if you have a cloudy day, you’re likely having a warmer day! Every time I think of the phrase “bright side of life” I get Monty Python stuck in my head. Do yourself a favor and listen to that! 😉

Light

4:30 in winter…

We are a northern people. With that comes the tilt of the earth on its axis and the slant away from the sun in the winter. In December when we hit the winter solstice the sun sets around 4:45 and it doesn’t rise again til nearly 8. It’s a long period of darkness. Some people HATE that. I sleep well during winter, so I’m in favor. The flip side is that we get ridiculously long days in the sweet time of summer – the sun is up early around 5:30 and sets after 9:30 at night. So much time to be outdoors and enjoying the weather. And Minnesotans take advantage – we know what is coming and don’t waste summer and that beautiful light.

Some people that live here (and love it) still need to spend some time in front of a “happy light” during winter mornings as they have their coffee. I’m basically a mole and don’t mind the dim of winter. You need to think about how you react to that type of environment. A colleague here heads to Mexico in the beginning of December and stays through May – he needs the sun but wants to be back here in summer.

Progressive politics

OK – I normally stay faaaar away from this topic, but hey, it is what it is and I’m just giving you information that you can take or leave. Minnesota has a reputation for being a “blue” state. Our current governor is a Democrat. The metro areas lean progressive- Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth.

As you move out across the suburbs the first rings are bluer than the exurbs and when you’re in rural MN, you are likely to be in some fairly solid red country. This is really no different than any other state if you look at demographics, but if you’re thinking of moving here to be in a blue bubble – well, that’s a stereotype and you’ll have to choose your home wisely.

Likewise, if you’re not feeling the progressive vibe, you are not alone, your people just tend to congregate in areas that are not as densely populated and I’m sure you’re not surprised by this news. Because MOST of the population of the state resides in the metro areas, and most of the people are progressives, you’ll likely also see policies that follow, but we do have loyal opposition in the form of a Republican controlled state Senate and that leads to a more balanced set of policies.

“Minnesota Nice”

I’m sarcastic and an introvert so people here don’t faze me, but you need to know that while people are “nice” they are also passive aggressive. That can be annoying if you let it. I don’t let it. I’m also going to add that sometimes there is a sense that MN has a lock on this attitude/behavior – NOPE. I lived in Atlanta. Land of “bless your heart” (“you idiot” = implied). I also did not find the famously hospitable south to be any more hospitable than any other place I’ve lived. People are people. You have to do the work when you’re new, it’s just a fact. That means you have to JOIN things and INVITE people to do stuff if you want to have friends outside of your house. I don’t think people are any more or less likely to knock on your door here and golly-gee you. Although I will say that when we moved here TWO of our neighbors dropped off food and offered a welcome. That IS two more than have ever done that anywhere else I’ve lived, so maybe it is nicer here?

Housing prices are high

It is not cheap to get into a home here. I don’t know if I’m the only one that was shocked by that information when I moved here, or not. Things are not easing at all, in fact they are getting worse as more buyers enter the market and the number of listings can’t meet the demand. People are staying in their homes longer, and here at least, people are reluctant to list until they have found a new place to live because the market is so tight that their home will be gone in a hurry and they may not find what they want from what is available. Add to all of that extremely low interest rates and people spending way too much time inside and you have demand that is insane. (If you’re thinking of listing – let me know lol! Not joking!) If you’ve ever taken a basic economics class you know that high demand + low supply = high prices.

I’m struggling to come up with anything else. I’m sure someone can help, ha ha! Comment below if you have a reason to stay the heck out of MN.

Neighborhood Tours · Uncategorized

Plymouth MN: one of Niche.com’s best suburbs in Minnesota

Plymouth is another big, popular suburb that lies directly west of the city of Minneapolis.

Who lives here? Download my neighborhood report and find out! It’s full of all kinds of information about the people and housing in Plymouth!

Why do people choose Plymouth MN when looking at Minneapolis suburbs? A lot of reasons! I have my usual suspects that I like to highlight when I do area snapshots and Plymouth scores highly on just about everything.

One thing I’ve started really taking note of lately is the differences between the east and west sides of the city. The western suburbs seem to me to be more established and solidly residential and with that comes a lot of the things that I think make neighborhoods nice to live in. Of course, this is not hard and fast, the eastern side of the city has established neighborhoods as well, but it also has a lot of new construction, which means homes that are built on former farm land, not many mature trees, and infrastructure still being built around it.

Parks

For quality of life, I think having a lot of green space and parks are important. Being packed into neighborhoods without having these spaces to enjoy the outdoors and time with family and friends makes an area less appealing to me.

Plymouth has some great options for green space. Because Plymouth is located out in what I think of as the “lakes area” of the metro – near Lake Minnetonka and the smaller lakes around it – the terrain is more rolling and seems to have more mature trees.

Plymouth has used that to their advantage with 1,855 acres of park land, including 174 miles of trails. Part of the trail system that goes through Plymouth is called the Luce Line Trail which is a 63 mile long converted railway to use for walking, bicycling, cross country skiing, and snow mobiling. Some sections have parallel trails for use by horseback riders as well. There are 12 parking lots along the trail for easy access. Check out the web site to see more info on this trail and get a map of entry points.

Another massive undertaking is the Northwest Greenway – they are currently on the 5th addition to this and per the Plymouth Parks and Rec web site have added something that sounds super fun and a great way to get kids outdoors, a Challenge Course!

“The Northwest Greenway Challenge Course, a new park amenity for ages 13 and older, offers unique activity challenges involving netting, climbing, balancing and agility on a variety of structures. The Challenge Course is located on the east side of Peony Lane, south of 54th Ave. N. — view on Google Maps.”

Plymouth also has three public beaches, three dog parks, seven ice rinks maintained by parks & rec. that are open from December to February, as well as the Ice Center which has 3 pro-sized ice sheets that are used for open skating, adult hockey leagues and home hockey games for Wayzata High School & Providence Academy.

Housing

Plymouth housing prices are above the Twin Cities median prices (most suburbs are). Plymouth does have a variety of housing, from townhomes & small single-level homes, to what I think of as a “typical” suburban neighborhoods and on up to very large single family homes. My video has content showing what each of these look like, but I’ll add the median home price graphs here for pricing over the past 3 years.

Median price over all
Townhomes in Plymouth vs the Twin Cities metro
Single Family Homes in Plymouth

Schools

If you are considering Plymouth it may be because of the great reputation of the schools there. One thing to know is that children attend school in one of three school districts (Wayzata, Osseo & Robbinsdale schools) depending on where they live in Plymouth. It’s important to do your own research and know which schools will meet the needs of your children. Some of the schools are considered to be among the best in the state and others don’t rank that high. Your agent can include or exclude homes based on the school districts that you prefer or want to eliminate.

Shopping

I like to cook, and most people like to eat. 😉 Everyone has a different budget and a different place that they feel great shopping in. I did a video on the most common grocery stores that you will see in the Twin Cities, so you can check that out if you want to get more of a feel for what is around here. I don’t think MN has the best reputation for having a wide variety of foods available (Nordic people seemed to like things relatively bland?) but things are changing. Most stores have more “obscure” seasonings and ingredients now, but there are also specialty groceries that are around and personally – I love to go into them and pick out somethings to try. You can see from the map below that Plymouth has no lack of options and you shouldn’t have to drive more than a couple of miles to get ingredients to get dinner on the table, I was geeked up when I saw Indian Bazaar, Kadai Foods and the Russian Market. Little treats like this make me really happy. My mouth likes spices and variety.

You’ll also notice Target on here- we have more Target stores per capita than any other state. I made that up. But it’s probably true since the HQ is here. There are several shopping centers with the usual big box stores and smaller shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for a mall, the closest one will be Ridgedale Center Mall – right off 394 just on the eastern side of 494. That’s also where you’ll likely find the closest Whole Foods, if that’s your thing.

Library

photo HCLIB.ORG

I love my public libraries! Plymouth library does not disappoint! It is fairly new, the current building was completed in 2010. It’s a bright, clean, open space with meeting rooms and a great children’s area. I’ve been up there for library sponsored talks and they do a great job bringing in content and programming that people may be interested in. The Plymouth Library is one branch of the 41 library Hennepin County library system. Because Hennepin County uses a main library / branch system everything you want is not necessarily at the branch closest to your home, but chances are that they have it and you can get it sent to your local branch fairly quickly.

Commute

OK – last bit. Many of us are working from home, but a lot of people still commute to their job. In Plymouth that means getting in your personal car and driving there. 75% of residents commute 30 minutes or less to their job, and if you look at the map up top you can see why – Plymouth has easy access to the major highways that crisscross the metro, so no matter where you need to be it’s likely about 30 minutes max to get there.

Uncategorized

Winter in Minnesota – things to do OUTSIDE!

Believe it or not, Minnesotans LOVE winter! In other places I’ve lived the attitude has been MUCH different, people thought of winter as something to get through, not something to celebrate. That change in perspective makes ALL the difference, in my opinion. I’m especially grateful for the way that winter is embraced here this year as we look for ways to stay healthy and have fun while staying safe.

Today I’ll give you a list of 10 things that Minnesotans do to have fun OUTSIDE in the winter. Many of these are free or low cost ways to enjoy the season, and they range from simple to more adventurous.

Dog Sledding

Photo by cheptu00e9 cormani on Pexels.com

I’ll start with the one I most want to do this winter – mushing on a dog sled! We did a training run in a buggy in Alaska once and it was fun, but I want to do the real deal! There are several outfitters in northern MN that have excursions for regular people. They range from a short run to primitive camping trip accessed by dog sled. I’m not sure that I want to camp in winter, but it’s an option. I’d much rather stay somewhere like the Gunflint Lodge in Grand Marais and let them handle the hard stuff while I enjoy the dogs and all of the other fun things they offer all year round.

Minnesota has several dogsled races if you prefer to watch! The John Beargrease Dog Sled Race is run out of Duluth at the end of January, you can head to Ely for the Wolftrack Classic in February, or check out the Gunflint Mail Run … in 2022. 2021 was nixed for our old enemy Covid.

SnowShoeing

Photo by Mau00ebl BALLAND on Pexels.com

Ok – lets bring this down to something closer to home and easier to access for an afternoon out: Snowshoeing! When the snow gets deep this is a great way to be able to head out an enjoy nature without struggling through snow up to your thighs. The good news about snowshoeing is that you can try it for FREE! Minneapolis Parks have loaners that you can sign out of their “Adventure Hubs”- check the Minneapolis Parks web site, Theodore Wirth Park has an amazing network of trails and they rent snow shoes for $12/day, several Minnesota State Parks also rent snow shoes – for a great price – only $6/day. I advise checking their website and calling in advance just due to potential Covid related closures.

Tubing

If you want more of a thrill and less of a workout, try snow tubing! Our family loves to go to Buck Hill every year and spend a couple of hours ripping downhill on a big inner tube. Buck Hill makes it easy because they have a conveyor style lift that you stand on with the tube behind you and you’re pulled to the top to start again. And at the bottom of the hill is a big bonfire that you can stand around to warm yourself and an outdoor kiosk that serves up hot cocoa. If snow if sparse they make their own, so there is never a reason not to go!

Skiing / Snowboarding

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

If tubing isn’t your cup of tea, Buck hill also has down hill skiing and snowboarding. This year you have to buy all your lift passes online before you go. There are lots of options for downhill skiing and snowboarding – the other two that come to mind are Afton Alps near Afton State Park and Hyland Hills ski area. A great option at Hyland Hills if you don’t want to buy a season pass, but think you’ll ski multiple times is a 10 or 6 visit pass. They both rent skis there as well as give lessons.

Nordic or cross country skiing is also very popular! You can rent skis at some parks, like Theodore Wirth, and enjoy miles of groomed trails of varying difficulty. Hyland Hills park also has extensive groomed ski trails and ski rentals as well.

Build a bonfire & make s’mores

Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. You can do this all winter. I walk my dog at night and often see people with fire pits in their driveways, sitting out in lawn chairs around it, chatting and having a drink, and roasting marshmallows. In winter. 🙂 If you like this enough to do it often, check out Solo stoves – they are smokeless fire pits that everyone seems to love and they look really slick too. Perfect for flexing at your neighbors.

Ice fishing

Photo by Hert Niks on Pexels.com

This one holds ALMOST no attraction for me, except when I think about leaving my house and spending quiet time in another location. I don’t care about the fish.

People in MN LOVE being on the ice. If you get near a body of water in the winter, chances are it will be covered with ice shanties. People leave these little houses out on the ice all winter and hang out in them and fish. And you can catch some seriously large fish here if that’s what you’re into.

If you’re not ready for a shanty – drag your gear out onto the ice in a sled – some people set up little tents or just sit out there with a line through a hole in the ice and fish.

Visit the zoo.

Photo by Diego Madrigal on Pexels.com

OK, this one is a plan ahead because they are temporarily closed due to governor’s orders, BUT they are normally open all year and are a great way to spend time outside looking at the animals. We have two zoos to choose from in the Twin Cities – Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul is smaller and FREE. It’s a great zoo to go to if you don’t want to spend a whole day and deal with huge crowds, plus it’s close to home if you live in MPLS or STP.

The Minnesota Zoo is the Mac-Daddy zoo. It’s huge and you’ll have your day cut out for you. We were members for a while and one of the things that we liked was the area where you can pet the stingrays. We also loved the indoor tropical forest path, nice and warm and lots of clear panes on the animal habitats so that you could see them from a lot of angles and in little nooks.

Sledding

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I can’t even begin to guess how many sled hills there are in the metro area. I make a joke that it sounds like an amusement park at the park next to my house because the minute there is snow on the ground the hill is MOBBED with kids AND adults. No one can wait for this. This year I’m extra grateful to have this easy, fun, free and SAFE choice for my kid to gather with her friends outside. They head over there just about every day, and I feel great that they get fresh air, exercise, and social time. Most parks have a sled hill in them somewhere, and the one down the street doesn’t there will be one not far away – guaranteed!

Ice Skating

Photo by Daria Sannikova on Pexels.com

Another freebie for the most part! Almost every park sets up an outdoor skating area in the winter. They flood the field, set up boards for a hockey “arena”, and then leave lots of extra space around it for free skating. Parks in Minneapolis have warming houses where you can .. warm up! and change into and out of your skates. Lots of families donate skates that they have outgrown and the warming house has a wide selection of skates to borrow if you don’t have your own. You can also borrow hockey sticks and pucks if you have a pick-up game and I see adults out on the ice at night playing hockey all the time. Side note that Minneapolis has an ENORMOUS pond hockey tournament every (normal) year. It’s held on Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis. They set up nearly 30 rinks on the lake!

Winter Festival

If you are more of an extrovert than me and like hanging around a lot of people and maybe you miss that this year – good news! The St. Paul Winter Carnival happens at the end of January /beginning of February. As of now it is still on!

They are featuring a craft brew passport to try some of our great local beers, there is a drive through ice and snow sculpture park, ice fishing and softball tournaments (yes, in the snow!), fun run, art show and more.

That’s about it for now – I’ll be posting some indoor ideas soon!

Neighborhood Tours · Uncategorized

Minneapolis vs St. Paul – What’s the difference?

Moving to the Twin Cities? Wondering what the difference is between Minneapolis & St. Paul? Let’s do a little compare & contrast today!

The Minneapolis-St.Paul metro area is made up of 7 core counties – Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin (Minneapolis), Ramsey (St. Paul), Scott & Washington – all within Minnesota. However, because we border on WI, many people live Pierce or St. Croix counties in WI and work in the Twin Cities. People here refer to this whole area generically as “The Metro” or “The Cities”.

How will you know which of the “Twin Cities” is the right one for you? Today I just want to take a look at how they compare to each other at a high level.

The two cities would probably be one city somewhere else because they are so close to each other, they are separated mainly by the Mississippi River, and yet they each has a distinctive character. Minneapolis feels more buttoned up, polished, new and bustling than St. Paul.

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

Minneapolis is home to a sparkling skyline filled with new skyscrapers, and the downtown is constantly under construction as buildings go up to house the population wants to live right at the center of everything. Both of the cities are more than just work day destinations, so if you’re looking for an urban lifestyle you can get get them here. Minneapolis has a healthy condo market in the urban core and a lot of desirable and well maintained neighborhoods within the city limits. St. Paul doesn’t feel as heavy on the condos, but is filled with beautiful mature neighborhoods filled with historic homes.

St. Paul is the capitol of Minnesota, but it feels like the sleepier of the two cities.

Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

Size

Lets compare them just in size – Minneapolis has about 437,000 residents in the city itself while St. Paul is the smaller of the two with about 305,000 people. The Twin Cities Metro area is actually GROWING, as compared to a many other midwestern cities which are shrinking as their employment base leaves. Minneapolis has grown over 14% since the census in 2010, and has year over year population growth of about 1.35%.

Minneapolis resides within Hennepin County, which a very large county that encompasses Minneapolis as well as several suburbs on the south, west and north sides of the city. St. Paul resides within much smaller Ramsey County and it’s suburbs are part of other counties.

Cost of Living

We all pay just about the same amounts for things like food, utilities and gasoline, but where you will see a difference is in actual housing related costs.

Median Home Prices 11/2020Single familyTownhouseCondo
7 County Metro$336,990$229,500$185,000
Minneapolis$305,000$275,000$265,000
St. Paul$240,000$214,000$185,000
Median Home Price Comparison November 2020
Hennepin County Property Tax Rate (MPLS)1.36%
Ramsey County Property Tax Rate (STP)1.30%
State of MN Average Property Tax Rate1.08%
National Average Property Tax Rate1.15%
Property Tax comparison November 2020

MN as a state has lower than average property taxes, but as you would expect with any urban area, the rates in the city are higher. If you are concerned about housing as a % of your monthly expenditures and you want to live in the city, you are more likely to find a more affordable home AND pay a lower tax rate in St. Paul than you would in Minneapolis.

One thing that no one mentioned to us when we purchased our home, but that we have found to be a nice benefit in MN is that when you file income taxes, there is a third return to file for a property tax rebate if you’ve filed a homestead exemption on your home. Not something to skip! You file the return at the same time as your other tax returns but then we tend to forget about it and get a nice check in the summer.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Transportation

Commute times for people in both cities are roughly the same at 23-24 minutes. Most people in the twin cities do commute by car, usually alone.

metrotransit.org

However each cities DOES have the benefit of public transportation. The Metro Light Rail serves the downtown areas of both Minneapolis and St. Paul as well as branching to the University of MN, and south to the Mall of America and MSP Airport. But if you want to get around within the cities vis public transportation you’ll need to take a bus. Metro Transit buses run frequently and, in my experience, are quite clean.

When we moved from Chicago, we felt a little disoriented because the public transit isn’t as developed, and we were also used to relying on taxi cabs (is that old school now?). Any rides here will be through Uber, Lyft, or other ride share services. You won’t really see many cabs looking for fares, which is probably normal throughout MOST of the US anyway.

Income / Education

The cities differ in income and education demographics as well. Minneapolis is a little more well-heeled with a median household income of almost $64,000. while St. Paul’s median household income is about $59,000.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

MN in has very educated population in general and when you look at Minneapolis, 49.4% of adults hold a BA or higher and in St. Paul it is about 40.1%.

Arts

If you like the arts, both cities have a wide variety of choices.

St. Paul’s downtown is home to the Ordway Theater, and the beautiful old Fitzgerald Theater. The Fitzgerald was home to the NPR show “Prairie Home Companion” for many years and hosts a wide variety of theater and talks by notable people.

Minneapolis has the Orpheum Theater where you’ll see traveling broadway shows and the Guthrie theater for more independent productions.

Both cities have a lot of small independent theaters as well.

For fine visual arts, Minneapolis has the Walker Art Center where you can see contemporary art, and the newly rehabbed Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is adjacent to it. If more traditional art and antiquities are your thing – the Minneapolis Institute of Art is for you.

Parks

You know I love parks. St. Paul has 179 parks and 100 miles of trails, but the most impressive park in St. Paul (to me) is the Como Zoo and Conservatory. The zoo is absolutely adorable and FREE, and the Conservatory is like a little jewel box. I particularly love going there in the depths of winter to breathe in the warm, clean air that all of the plants emit and just take in the gorgeous displays of flowering plants around the reflecting pool. In the summer there is a small amusement park right next to the zoo, so if you have little kids and want to let them go on rides without the production of going to a large amusement park like Valley Fair, you can take a more low key approach and they will love it.

St. Paul also has several aquatic centers – one of which is indoor (big plus where you have winters like ours!) and multiple municipal golf courses.

Minneapolis has 160 neighborhood parks – each generally has a field, a community building with a gym or a warming house & a playground with a wading pool. These are at the heart of each neighborhood and while everyone is welcome, they feel the front yard gathering spot for people that live there. Minneapolis doesn’t have a zoo (the Minnesota Zoo is in Apple Valley), but it DOES have what are called “The Grand Rounds” which is a series of connected scenic parkways that encompass the Chain of Lakes. In addition there are several larger regional parks that are real destinations for everyone in the metro area and those include Minnehaha Falls & Theodore Wirth Park. If you’re into golf Minneapolis has 7 municipal courses as well.

Sports

Last but not least – professional sports teams. Minneapolis is home to the bulk of the teams, with the Vikings, Timberwolves, Lynx and Twins all playing there. Hockey (the Wild) & Minnesota United soccer are both played in St. Paul.

Are you going to choose where you live based on which professional sports are played in that city? Probably not, but hey – it’s good to have a general sense of the difference between the two cities, and when you get the itch to see something different you can just spend 10 more minutes in the car and check out how the other half lives.

Let me know if you have questions about living here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, or anything related to real estate here. I’d love to help you out!

Uncategorized

Jobs in Minneapolis!

If you’re thinking of moving to Minneapolis or the Twin Cities area, you may also be wondering what kind of employment opportunities are here for either yourself or someone in your household.

If you’re thinking about moving here, check out my FREE relocation guide, you can download it here: 🚗🏡🌼 http://bit.ly/MPLSReloGuide 🌺🌻🚕

Today I’m going to give you a run down of some of the top employer in the Twin Cities metro area.

The Minneapolis area is a “hub for headquarters”! We are home to MANY fortune 500 companies including (but not limited to) giants like

  • United Health Group – healthcare & insurance
  • Target – Retail
  • Best Buy – Retail
  • US Bank – Banking & Finance
  • 3M – industry, worker safety, US health care, and consumer goods
  • CHS – Agriculture cooperative & farm lobby
  • US Bancorp- Banking & Finance
  • General Mills – Food processing & maker of many major food brands
  • Ecolab – Hygiene & infection control

Large PRIVATE companies include names like:

  • Cargill – Agriculture
  • Mortensen Construction
  • Anderson Construction

80 of INC’s 5000 fastest growing companies in the US are located here in the Twin Cities.

Other industries that are very well represented here are education & healthcare. The Minneapolis- St. Paul area is home to 25 colleges and universities, from the main campus of the University of MN to smaller private colleges like Gustavus and Augsburg, to community & technical college and even smaller schools that specialize in particular trades. If you are a teacher in k-12, the Minneapolis – St. Paul schools and thee districts surrounding them employ many thousands of teachers and support staff.

Healthcare systems in the Twin Cities area include HealthPartners, Fairview Hospital, Allina Health, Hennepin County Health, and the Minneapolis VA among others.

The twin cities has a very diverse economy & that is one of it’s strengths! Because of this diversity the economy in this area is generally stable and growing – the unemployment rate in MN is consistently lower than the US unemployment rate.

If you are thinking of moving here, chances are that there will be a good fit for you work-wise. If you have questions I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment or contact me via my contact info.

1350 Lagoon Ave, Suite 900
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Uncategorized

Winterizing your home! Steps to take for newbies. Or if you’ve been around a while.

Are you a new home owner? Is this your first winter in the northern part of the country? Your house takes on a whole new meaning when it’s what is standing between you and below zero temps, howling winds and piles of snow.

In this post, I want to give you some tips for winterizing your home and heading off potential trouble right when you want it least. These aren’t in any particular order, and almost all of them are easy to accomplish, but NOT doing them can lead to a world of hurt.

Tune up your furnace. Have someone come out and service it and make sure that it’s functioning well. One thing you’ll notice is that furnaces malfunction at the very worst of times – probably because a lot more is being asked of them when it’s very cold and you want this to be the time when your furnace rises to the challenge.

If you have a high efficiency gas furnace, you will have 2 PVC pipes that exhaust out the side of your home. It is really important that these two pipes are free of any obstructions. And if snow gets high enough, you’ll want to make sure that the snow isn’t blocking them either.

they will look like this!

Make sure you change the filter, and change it monthly when the weather gets cold and it’s running. Contrary to common belief – you want a thinner filter! We had been spending all kinds of money on “good filters” only to be told by our furnace tech that it actually inhibits airflow and that is BAD for the furnace – you want dirt filtered out but AIR going in for best results.

Boilers that service radiators need attention too! Once a year before it gets cold have someone take a look.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Clean and inspect your chimney. If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace, before you light a fire make sure that the chimney is CLEANED. Soot builds up in the chimney and it is flammable – everyone wants to be able to put their feet up in front of the fire, but no one wants a chimney fire.

Photo by Hilary Halliwell on Pexels.com

Check the batteries and AGE of your CO/smoke detectors. Winter is when carbon monoxide poisonings are most likely to happen. Make sure your batteries are functioning – we like to change them at the fall time change.

Your detectors should have a date on them, but if not know that they should be replaced every 10 years just due to the fact that dust builds up and makes them less dependable. And if it’s time to replace them – think about going with the photoelectric instead of ionization type of detector. I’ve seen demos of the difference and it can be 15 minutes more escape time gained with a photoelectric alarm.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Turn off exterior water. Before it gets truly cold, shut off water to hoses. And if you have pipes that run along exterior walls INSIDE the house – think about putting some insulation around them. Pipes can & do freeze in winter, and when this happens the water doesn’t stay inside the pipe, it flows freely throughout your walls and causes a LOT of damage. This 10 minute task will bring you a lot of peace of mind.

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Clean your gutters. When all of that snow and ice melts – it needs a place to go. You want your gutters to be able to guide it AWAY from your house. Having them clean is the way to go.

Cover the TOP of your AC unit. if you have central air, don’t put a full cover over the compressor (it will attract animals looking for shelter and hold moisture in), but if you set a piece of plywood on top and put a couple of bricks on it, it keeps things from getting into the unit.

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Change the rotation of your ceiling fans. Fans can switch direction, heat rises and you stay down by the floor, so if you have tall ceilings, change the setting so that the fan rotates CLOCKWISE and the warm air will be pushed downward toward where people are.

Photo by Furknsaglam on Pexels.com

Stock up on GRIT. In MN, that’s what they call it. It’s a mix of sand that you can scatter on your sidewalks and driveway to keep yourself from wiping out. I have a friend who broke her ribs trying to walk to her car because of ice. I highly recommend trying to AVOID this with liberal use of GRIT.

Air Seal. This one… is not really DIY, but I dream of doing it to my house because I fear ice dams which are caused when heat gets into attics and melts snow which then freezes on the edge of the roof. This can cause a lot of problems that I don’t want to have. And it takes a suprisingly small amount of heated air to create this issue, so if you can have someone crawl around up in your attic and seal up any hole from wiring, pipes or chimneys that allows warm air up there, you can potentially save yourself a roof and ceiling if winter conditions cause ice dams.

Home Buying · Neighborhood Tours

Is your kid headed to the U?

In the past couple of months I’ve had multiple people contact me as they explore housing options for their kids as they head off to college – either as an undergraduate coming from overseas to attend college in the US, or somewhat more locally, students from other parts of the US to pursue a graduate degree here in MN.

One parent in particular said that he had focused on tuition costs while saving for college and didn’t really give much thought to the fact that housing alone would be another $1000-$2000 / mo. Ouch. And that is to share a dorm room with between one and 3 other people.

So, maybe you start to think about renting an apartment instead? Well, rents here are not any better even if your space may be larger. Is renting a space the best way to spend your housing dollar? Possibly! But another thing to think about is buying a place and reaping the rental rewards for yourself, while enjoying possible tax benefits and putting your dollars toward an asset that you can eventually sell.

I used nerdwallet to see if this would be a “smart” move and made some assumptions – one that you’re buying a condo or a home with a purchase price of $300K and that because your family member is living there that you can put 20% down (not 25% as in an investment property). I also assumed that the interest rate would be around 3.5% which is actually HIGH for loans these days if you have decent credit. Why the BIG arrow and the underline and the exclamation point? Well, look at that payment!

This week I viewed condos that could have 3-4 students in them and were NICE listed at around $300K, walking distance or easy public transit to the U and they were getting $3000/mo in rent.

I’m quite literally sitting here wishing that I had $60K to put down RIGHT NOW so I could buy that condo and start bringing in an additional $1500/mo in rental income. (ok – this is a goal of mine for my own kid and yes, she’s only 12, and, ok, she may not attend the UMN, BUT!!!, I still have deep desires for income properties near the U.)

Median sales price in Marcy Holmes by the U over the past 3 years compared to the Twin Cities as a whole.

MLS / Infosparks 6/26/2020

I even like this graph that shows that days on market are longer there – more of a buyers market! 🙂

MLS / Infosparks 6/26/20

OK – today’s video is a little tour of the area. I hope you like it. Let me know if you have questions!