Home Buying · home selling · Living in Minneapolis

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.

Living in Minneapolis

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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!

Living in Minneapolis · 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!