Living in Minneapolis

Snow School!

I routinely help people move to MN from out of state and because nearly every state is south of us, warmer than us, and doesn’t have quite the winter that we do, most people aren’t mentally or physically prepared for winter here in MN. I sense a lot of excitement, but also fear?

In this video I’m taking you to SNOW SCHOOL and giving you the tips that you’ll need to get through winter comfortably and safely! 

Let me reassure you that people in MN aren’t some mutant breed, we aren’t the huskies of the human race that want to roll around in ice in summer. We just like seasons and recognize that winter is one of them, and have found ways to make it comfortable, safe and doable. In this video I’m taking you to SNOW SCHOOL and giving you the tips that you’ll need to get through winter comfortably and safely! 

Winter and snow can be downright magical if you can sit inside a warm house with a cup of coffee and a fire blazing watching it fall from the sky.  But eventually you have to leave the house.  I’m going to start off with how to DRESS for winter here and I’ll do another video on other considerations like driving in it, managing it around your home and preparing your actual house for winter as well as staying safe outside in winter. 

It’s September and that means it is HIGH time to start preparing for winter. Costco has their gloves and hats out, Christmas decor is usually up right around now and its a great reminder to get your act together while the getting’s good. 

Today I’m going to start with the basics!  How should you plan to dress here in winter?  

It will vary across the season, with peak winter gear needed in January when we often see stretches of well below zero weather.  Our seasons are pretty prompt here, with a definite change in the air that hits right at the 3 month mark of any season.  I’m recording this at the beginning of September, and the weatherman here pointed out that we have just seen our last after 8pm sunset until next April and that means that we are on our way into fall.  Our temps have been in the mid-50’s overnight lately (and I LOVE IT) with highs in the mid 70’s. Northern MN has the high 30’s for overnight temps – winter is coming!

I don’t mind the short days (in the depths of winter it’s starting to get dark here by around 4:30 and it won’t be light til well after 8am), I sleep well in winter! I may be part bear. We do have the flip side in summer with extremely long days, so if that’s your cup of tea you’ll have it to look forward to. 

Everyone has their own definition of cold, but I would say that it starts to get cold at the end of October (highs in the 30’s lows in the 20’s overnight).  We often see at least some snow around Halloween. And fun fact – if you see snow it means it’s NOT THAT COLD.  It actually will NOT snow when it is truly cold here, there needs to be some moisture in the air to achieve snow and intense cold is also intensely DRY. 

Your mom may have mentioned wearing LAYERS to you, and she knew what she was talking about.  If you’ll be outside in very cold weather you should plan to have 3 layers on. The first layer is a snug base layer. Do not wear cotton as it holds moisture and having damp skin or clothes is dangerous. Pick a synthetic material that wicks moisture away from the skin. 

Your second layer should be your fleece or other clothing (sweater, sweatshirt, something!) that insulates and holds pockets of warm air close to your body. Do you need 2 layers on your legs -yep! If it’s cold, having warm legs makes a world of difference. I feel like there is an artificial focus on the upper body for warmth, but having your legs warm (I mean 50% of your body?!) makes a HUGE difference in comfort if you’re going to be outside.

My dogs don’t seem to mind cold weather at all and still want their walks, and having snow pants on changes everything. They come in varying styles and weights.  I’m a dork and wear the thick (and WARM) snow pants you see on kids. You probably have more shame/fashion sense than me and You can get some “sleeker” pants that insulate and block wind, those can be pricey but you’ll look as amazing as you CAN look while wearing snow pants. If I’m going to be out walking dogs or clearing the sidewalk I’ll wear a base layer – long johns, leggings or even tights – and then pull the snow pants over that and I’m super comfy. 

Final layer! You’ll want something WIND and WATER proof! These two elements can literally be the death of you if you don’t prepare. Down is a wonderful insulating material but if it gets wet, it’s worse than useless. Blocking wind and water will be what keeps you feeling toasty warm. And when I say water – I don’t mean rain.  Snow can be quite wet and soak right through your coat. I can think of nothing worse than being cold and wet at the same time.

man wearing parka
Photo by Dan Smith on Pexels.com

When looking at coats for actual winter weather here, you probably want a parka vs a “jacket”.  A parka is generally longer and will cover your backside better. I would actually say that having both is not a bad idea. If you’re running around doing errands and will be in and out of the car and heated spaces you can scurry around in your jacket and be fine, but for warmth – I like a parka. Parkas also come with hoods (often detachable) and when the wind is ripping around I’ll use it. If you buy from a quality place they often have ratings on their winter items and you can see that clothing is rated to X degrees below zero. You’ll need that in winter. My favorite combination is down with a wind and waterproof shell.

For your extremities, you definitely need a beanie or tuque (interchangeable – you’ll hear both words!), gloves or if you really want warm hands, get mittens. Having your digits all together in one pocket of fabric makes for a much warmer hand. Feet should have wicking socks. The best are wool or smart wool (they aren’t itchy – I promise!) and then boots that are insulated and waterproof. I see lots of feet looking stylish and warm in Sorel’s but North Face are super popular here as are less expensive brands like Lands End. 

man looking left side
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Pexels.com

My husband hates the cold and we also stock up on the hand warmer things in winter and he will keep those in his pocket when walking the dogs or clearing.  So if you tend toward the chilly side, that’s another option. 

My last tip is don’t wait! When winter things appear in the store, buy them. They disappear pretty fast next thing you know it’s -20 and the stores are stocked with swim suits for spring break. 

I’ll do another post and video for driving and dealing with cold in general shortly, I also did one a while back on getting your house ready for winter, you can check out my YouTube Playlist for life in Minneapolis and you’ll see that!

Home Buying · home selling · market updates

Twin Cities Real Estate Market Update – Fall 2021

Let’s talk about the Real Estate Market in the twin cities! It’s been a little bit since I’ve done one of these updates, and typically there is some seasonality to the real estate market, with a big slow down in the fall as holidays approach and things picking up in the early spring.  Is that the case this year? Let’s find out! 


So, how’s the market? If there is one question every agent hears all the time, this is IT! And I think everyone knows the market has been GREAT for sellers and really rough for buyers, so the question is has that changed? The information I’ll give you here applies to the 7 county metro area, but you should know that every neighborhood has its own micro market and behaves a bit independently from the whole, this information is just a snapshot of the general market behavior right now, if you’re curious about your own little niche – let me know and I get you more specific #’s that apply to your specific area in the metro – just send me an email about that and I’m happy to help. 


I was able to get a look at some historical data comparing this year to 10 years ago and one of the things that stood out were that the #  of active listings that are available to be sold has continually decreased to nearly HALF of what we had then – we had 10,229 homes to choose from in 2016 and now have only 5,692. This isn’t sudden, it’s a distinct trend line going down over the past 10 years. The inventory issue did not sneak up on us and it isn’t going anywhere.

 
If it’s prices that are freaking you out they peaked in summer and we are now seeing the fall dip. So this could be the time to get a better deal on a home than getting into the scrum with everyone else during peak season. 


If you remember from other updates, I like to reference the “absorption rate” how many months would it take for the market to sell or absorb all the homes for sale on the market if no others were listed? 

5-7 months worth of housing inventory is considered “balanced” and any number of months less than that indicates a sellers market and a number HIGHER than that is a buyers market. 

Right now we have 1.03 mo supply of single family homes, 1.34 mo supply or condos and townhomes, and 1.12 combined mo supply of homes total.  A very distinct sellers market!  STILL! but better in some degree than earlier this summer when it was less than one month  – somewhere around 2-3 weeks, and that takes into consideration days on market and active contingencies like inspection. Reality was that things were sold in a couple of days. And that is STILL the reality depending the price point, condition and the location of the home.

Median Price for Single Family Homes
Median Townhome Price
Median Condo Price


Let’s look at  what  sellers are deeming a good offer right now:

  • Offer Acceptance Rate: 62% -this has been as low as about 33% this year
  • Inspections Waived: 31% which is down from the highs over 50%.  I am still seeing this come up a lot in multiple offer situations, and if people are bidding on a competitive house getting an inspection can still be a sticking point. 
  • Pre-MLS Sales: 2.74% – this is lower than it’s been for most of this year – we have seen these off market properties make up around 5% of sales over most of the summer
  • Average Purchase to List Price: sellers are getting of their asking price 100.67% – great news for buyers and not awful news for sellers. You’ll probably get your asking price. 

I will say that this is much MORE likely if it is a single family home as condos and townhomes are still soft spots. 

The most recent 3 transactions that I have had have ALL had multiple offers, (7-9 offers), one had an accepted offer at 10% over list price, one at  nearly 6% over list and the last I don’t know the outcome because we didn’t get it but we offered (and lost) at 10% over list and were told  they accepted a cash offer with NO contingencies (no inspection!).

All of these homes were in the tightest price bracket of $300-$500K.  No matter what the statistics say this continues to be an area of really fierce competition when it comes to homes that are in high demand areas and in good condition. 


Financing Types:

  • Cash 14%, – if you have the means to make this kind of offer it can really give you an edge. I am aware of some mortgage products that allow you to make a cash offer so if you’re in a competitive price point, and feel like this might be the answer, know that there are options out there and I give help you find out about this.
  • Conventional loans are still the big dog at 74% of loans.
  • FHA represented 10% of the accepted offers which is a nice bump up! This is great to see for people that may be first time buyers and need the extra room that an FHA loan grants them.  It’s just been difficult to get an FHA loan accepted in this market when you’re being outbid by people that can guarantee appraisal gaps or provide other financial incentives (like cash purchases!).
  • VA 1% still a tough spot to be in , if you’re not familiar with VA loans, they  are a zero down loan. This is a really tough spot  when appraisal  gap coverage is needed, so if you’re in a position to take any other type of loan, that would probably be beneficial to your offer. 
  • USDA 0% – these are typically on land or rural purchases, seeing a low number here for a metro area is not surprising.
  • Other = 1%.
  • Seller Paid Closing Costs: 31% – this keeps going up!
  • Home Warranties: were included 9.6% – another statistic on the rise – so these indicators all show a very slight softening from the harsh days of early summer for buyers
  • Contingent Upon the Sale of the Buyer’s Property: 7.5%  A little lower than we’ve seen in other months, but present!


Thanks for stopping by! If you’re interested in learning more about the different neighborhoods and suburbs around the twin cities, check out some of my videos highlighting those! I have a playlist dedicated to this with lots of good information if you’re thinking about making a move. 

Neighborhood Tours

New Hope!

Another surprising community! Today I’ll show you around New Hope MN and give you all the reasons you may want to consider living there.


Lately I’ve been working with several first time buyers, and if you remember buying your first home you probably didn’t have a massive pile of money for a down payment as many people who may have equity from a sale do, so you have to look for a starter house in a more affordable neighborhood. 

That’s where New Hope comes in!  A quick look at what is on the market right now illustrates my point – there are 30 active homes in New Hope ranging from a 1 bed 1 bath condo for $115,000 to only a few homes in the mid-upper $500’s with MOST homes being single family homes in the upper $200,000’s to mid $300,000’s.  The MEDIAN price in New Hope is at $309,000 whereas the Twin Cities Median is at $380,000. 

 
If you’re an investor and want to rent out a residential property you must register the property with the city. 


In addition to single family homes and people just starting out in life, New Hope makes senior living a priority as well. They have 3 long term care facilities, some assisted living complexes and senior citizen apartment homes. 

elderly couple holding bouquet of flowers while holding hands
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com


Let’s talk Property taxes… New Hope is in Hennepin County, the effective property tax rate in New Hope is 1.35%.  Hennepin County’s portion is 1.28%, the effective tax rate for the state of MN is 1.08%. Sales taxes since I looked this up as well – MN has a sales tax rate of 6.88% on everything except  (I believe!) food, prescriptions and clothing, and the sales tax rate in New Hope is 7.13%. 

tax return form and notebooks on the table
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com


The beauty of New Hope is not only the affordable home prices, but that New Hope is actually a really lovely community and it has a lot to offer.  


New Hope is an easy commute to downtown or the airport. It’s only about 20 minutes by car to downtown.  and Because I’m such a fan of our regional parks I also want to point out how close New Hope is to the beautiful Theodore Wirth Park. I touched on this park in my Golden Valley video (which you can watch next!) but Theodore Wirth really has it all. It’s just gorgeous, and can keep you busy outside no matter what season we’re in. 


If you are leaving town or going to fetch a visitor, it’s about 26 minutes to MSP airport and while you’re down there you can stop by the Mall of America and get your shopping done or amuse the kids on the roller coasters.  I was a major skeptic because I am not really a “mall person”, but I like “The Mall”!  It has so many great stores that you don’t see everywhere else, some nice food options and my kid and I had fun doing some of the rides the first time we stopped in.  Being close to it is nice because it can just be something you do for an hour or two and you don’t have to feel like you need to spend all day there since you can go back any time.  The Ikea is right next to the mall as well, so if you like. Swedish Meatballs and cryptic assembly instructions for affordable furniture that utilize allen wrenches  – you’ll be in heaven!


New Hope does NOT have it’s own school district, all schools in New Hope are part of the Robbinsdale Schools aka ISD 281.  It’s a pretty big district with 10 k-5 elementary schools, 2 middle and 2 high schools. I always recommend that you do your research and see if the school district that your home is in is one that you will be happy with. You can check out Niche.com or GreatSchools, but another option is to actually VISIT the schools and talk to the administration and see things for yourself.  


Speaking of brain food… New Hope residents have convenient use of 3 branches of the Hennepin County Library system.  They can easily access Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center, Golden Valley’s adorable little library, or the Rockford Library in Crystal. 
One of my favorite topics when giving community profiles is the park systems. I just think green space improves the quality of life for everyone.  New Hope agrees! They are a small city (only about 21,000 residents) but they have 18 city parks and several other venues offering all kinds of recreational activities including: 

  • the new Hope aquatic center which is a community pool and water slide
  • 2 off leash dog parksa 9 hole public golf course
  • disc golf course
  • ball fields 
  • a skate park 
  • tennis / pickleball courts
  • Community gyms with basketball courts that can be rented out for the day
  • and 3 outdoor skating rinks that are open in season. 
sunflowers on rack with price tag near orange canopy tent
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com


The city hosts a Farmers Market on Saturdays from the middle of June through the middle of October at City Hall. 


Lastly – Pets & fencing. Everyone’s favorite topics!

winking black and brown puppy
Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com


New Hope allows for a LOT of pets – 3 dogs, 3 cats and 3 “other” household pets, as well as 3 “fowl”, This is not restricted to actual chickens – if you want ducks instead – go crazy!
All dogs, cats and ferrets need to be licensed and vaccinated for rabies. 


Fencing – IS ALLOWED! 🙂 


OK – that is ALL I HAVE on New Hope! It’s a lovely community that I feel lucky to have worked in lately. It offers a lot of great options to people that may be priced out of other areas of the city. It’s 100% worth considering if you’re wondering where to live in the twin cities metro. 
If you like this kind of content – I have an entire playlist of neighborhoods/suburbs on my YouTube Channel that you can look at to see what feels right for you.


Thanks for stopping by!

Living in Minneapolis · 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 · 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 · 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.

Living in Minneapolis · Uncategorized

The hard truth…

I did a video about winning as a buyer in a seller’s market last summer. I thought it was bad then. I was right, but I was wrong. I really didn’t conceive of how much harder things would get for buyers and I have all of my fingers and toes crossed hoping that it gets easier soon for buyers – I represent a LOT of them and it can be really hard to keep trying and not succeeding.

The only way that it will get easier is if more people decide to put their homes on the market. If you have been thinking about listing your home – now is the time! You may not even need to show it.

New construction is an option for people that want to buy, but at the same time demand for that is very high as well and they will be happy to take a contract now and begin to dig… in September, October or later.

Right now you have something like a 65% chance of NOT having your offer accepted right now. And that is if you’re in a GOOD position and well qualified and throw everything you have at it.

It’s come to this.

At our team meeting today we were talking about this subject and people are saying things like “37 offers”, “25 offers”, on a single listing in a couple of days. How can you possibly win in a situation like that? Sellers are looking at a spreadsheet of offers – what will make YOURS stand out in this crowd? List price isn’t going to do it.

Someone in my office said that one of the questions they now ask every buyer is “what can you bring to the table that no one else can? What will make YOU stand out?” At a certain point you can’t throw any more money at the problem and you have to get creative.

Examples that she gave of things that made sellers select their offer over others were tickets to a Packers game, a weekend at their cabin, etc.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I know this ridiculous on some level, like … this should be about getting a fair price and good terms for a home. It should not be the Hunger Games. But it IS the Hunger Games. If you understand this going in, you may have a shot at winning instead of making offer after offer and NOT winning, growing discouraged and frustrated and possibly homeless in the process.

The seller holds all the cards.

Price

When you make an offer on a property there will be several things that you’ll have to decide on, and I’ll give you a list of the fundamentals but you have to go beyond that. In a balanced market or in a buyers market you would not have to throw absolutely everything at the wall to see what actually sticks, but we are in a market that is so firmly in the seller’s favor that you have to ask yourself “what am I NOT willing to do to get this property?”

In this market, the price is not the price. The price is the floor. If you find a magical property with no other offers you may be able to get away with list price. When I think I have found one of these I STILL encourage an escalation clause that will bump my buyer’s offer over the net price of the next highest offer in the event that one (or more) come in between when we submit it and when they evaluate the offer.

So understand what the maximum amount of money you are willing to pay for a property and then put that number in there and know that if you do not get the property you did AS MUCH as you could price-wise, and price is the number one consideration, but it isn’t everything!

Earnest money

In Minnesota, it is normal and typical to give 1% of purchase price for earnest money. In this market you want to demonstrate seriousness by giving MORE. You can pick a lump sum, or decide on a percentage. In normal circumstances this is refundable if the purchase agreement is cancelled because it doesn’t meet a contingency – inspection or financing or something else.

Some clients are designating an amount as NON-REFUNDABLE.

Financing

There is no offer without a pre-approval from a reputable bank. Not a pre-qualification – a pre-approval! Without some sort of statement that you can execute on the contract your offer will be placed directly into the trash bin.

The MOST desired form of financing is CONVENTIONAL. The reason for this is that there are no FHA or VA appraisers that may find inspection issues with a home. It’s one less potential hurdle to a successful closing.

Conventional financing has some misconceptions – many people think that means that you have to have 20% down. You do NOT have to have a 20% downpayment to get conventional financing. Talk to a loan officer about what your options are.

Speaking of downpayment, having a large one available is also a bonus. It shows financial health and stability and again gives the seller a feeling of comfort that the sale will actually close.

Not everyone can do it, but if you can, a cash deal carries weight! It’s one less contingency that has to be cleared before the transaction can close. If you do have the means, you will include proof of funds with your offer in the form of a statement or a screen shot of an account with the relevant account numbers removed from the image.

Close Date

Sometimes this is an important criteria for a seller, and if you have the flexibility to be able to meet that sate, it is certainly a factor.

Written statement

A purchase agreement has an option to indicate that the lender will supply a written statement to the seller that the loan is basically approved and ready to go. Having this in your offer is another thing that the listing agent will be looking for, not having that is a point of weakness.

Inspection

This is a biggie.

Inspection periods are being reduced to very short time periods – 3 to 5 days instead of what was typically 10 as recently as one year go.

Buyers are waiving inspection, OR putting in writing that they will not ask for any repairs under x$ in value. You’re taking that risk either mostly or entirely off the seller. I would be selective on the homes that I chose to do this on if it were me buying. Some homes give a relative sense of comfort, while others you walk into and just feel that there is work that probably needs to be done. If the surface isn’t good, the subsurface likely isn’t much better.

A question to ask yourself when considering inspections and their value to you as a home buyer is to think about what information they give you and what would make you walk away from the home?

Home inspections can give you a certain amount of information, but even they are not a guarantee that the home will be problem free. It’s a status check. Do the appliances work they way they should, do the mechanicals? How is the roof? Is there anything frightening about the electrical? The inspector is looking for health and safety concerns.

If the inspector found that the the electrical needed a $1000 fix, would you walk away or would it take more than that?

If they find that the dishwasher works but is on it’s last legs and needs replacing soon, would that be enough? (If so, you’re probably not buying the right property).

I’m saying this because if you waive inspection and find a $1000 or a $5000 fix after you move in, will you still be happy you bought the home or will you regret your purchase?

If it means that you will not get the home if you’re in competition with someone that removes this contingency are you ok with that?

Appraisal

Because list price is basically the floor right now, sellers are getting large sums of money over asking price and that raises questions about meeting appraisal value if the home is being financed.

In the past, buyers and sellers would either meet somewhere in the middle or the seller may reduce their price, that is no longer the case.

Now buyers need to give a guarantee that they can make up the difference in cash if the appraisal comes in low. This is one reason why a high down payment is important, if it comes down to it, the amount financed can be higher and that money can be used to make up the difference on the appraisal.

Many of my sales in the past year have had appraisals waived by the bank because they can see that the value of the home is there by looking at neighborhood statistics, but if the other sales don’t support this an appraisal will still happen.

On listings, I have provided appraisers with copies of back-up offers that support the price that the buyers are getting. We work together to make sure that important information is shared.

Common Interest Community Recision Period

In Minnesota, if you’re buying a into a neighborhood that has an HOA, you are entitled to a 10 day right of recision period from the point at which you have received the last HOA document. On a recent offer the agent came back and said that not only did they want inspection waived but they wanted it in writing that the right of recision on the docs would be reduced to 3 days instead of 10.

Closing Costs

In a BUYER’S market, we often ask for a seller to contribute to the buyer’s closing costs. That is a NO right now, the only way it could exist at all is to raise the offer price to cover that difference. In fact, on a listing that I had the BUYER paid the SELLER’S government closing fees. No one had ever heard of this before and now I’m seeing agents mention it all the time.

Home Warranty

This one… well, a home warranty is a 500-700 dollars, it’s not something that you’ll want to ask a seller for at this point. One thing you can do is purchase one of your own.

So! That is the hard truth about buying in this market. Are you ready to get in the mix? Or better yet – thinking of selling? Now is the time – YOU dictate the terms.

Living in Minneapolis · 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.