Home Buying

You have interest rate options!

You’re not helpless when it comes to mortgage interest rates! A lot of buyers are concerned about monthly payments now that the interest rates have gone up.

I talked with Chris O’Connell at Loan Depot about 4 options that home buyers have to pay a lower interest rate and therefore a lower monthly mortgage payment. Chris had one that was surprising to me and we talked a bit about the one that seems to be getting a lot of attention in the real estate world right now, the 2/1 buy down and why that may not be the BEST option.

Take a look at this video interview if that is something that is worrying you as you think about buying a house now.

Living in Minneapolis · Neighborhood Tours

Highland Park Neighborhood St. Paul

I suffer from nostalgia and I’m a sucker for charming old homes and neighborhoods that remind me of movie sets. And that’s why I feel squishy inside when I spend time in Highland Park in St. Paul.  It’s a condition, don’t mock me!  

Types of homes

The Highland Park neighborhood of St Paul is right next to the MacGroveland neighborhood and shares so many of the same characteristics.  The homes are here older and filled with all of that original charm. St. Paul was settled before Minneapolis and the housing stock there reflects it in many areas.

Many of the homes were built in the early 1900’s and often have original hard wood floors, beautiful wide wood moldings, built-ins, plaster walls, detached garages and other features of homes built at that time. Another feature that I love on old homes that you’ll often see here are porches where you can sit and enjoy the gorgeous weather that we have here spring through fall. I think porches and sidewalks encourage a sense of community and give opportunities to see and talk to neighbors. 

As you enter the neighborhood from the west on Ford Parkway you’ll notice a large construction site which is a planned community / new construction development, so if you want the city lifestyle and access but AREN’T interested in old homes, this can be a great option for you. It’s called Highland Bridge and its a couple of different developments including row homes and a senior living development, community park, shops and restaurants. This won’t be where you find a bargain –  row homes are at the upper end of the pricing for this part of St. Paul at $1.5M+, there are also custom single family homes being built with lot prices starting at around $500K.

Amenities

One of the things I like about city living is the access to sidewalks and bike lanes as well as the ability to get to restaurants parks and shops relatively easily, on foot, on bike, or in a vehicle. Highland Park is home to all of these things, it has a robust commercial area so you won’t need to go far to grab a bite or do some shopping and recreation is convenient as well, it has a golf course, and  easy access to the massive park system along the Mississippi River with all of the bike trails that run throughout (72 miles along the Mississippi rover alone!) and connect to so many local and regional trails in the Minneapolis St Paul region. 


Another stand out to me was the local library branch and the Highland Park Rec Center which offers Highland Park Community Center offers educational programs, after school activities, open gymtot-times, family events, fitness center memberships, youth and adult athleticsS’more Fun childcare, Highland Park Community Center Theatre, field rentalsrental space for parties, meetings, and events, and so much more.

Home prices

The average home price in Highland Park for the typical house is a little more than $441K, its charming neighbor, MacGroveland is just a little bit more from an average home price perspective. 

Access

This neighborhood also has easy access to both Minneapolis and St. Paul for work – as well as the freeways that lead to the South, SW and SE suburbs, or anywhere that you want to go within the metro area. Typically if you work on one side of the river you try to live on that side for easy commuting, but I think Highland Park benefits from a great central location from a commuting perspective.  Light rail is also within 1 mile of the neighborhood and there is a bus system in St. Paul.

It seems like one of the big benefits of the suburbs would be easy access to stores like Target, and Highland Park actually has an adorable little Target in their main commercial area off of Ford Parkway & Cleveland. 

Shopping

Groceries are within easy reach at the Target, Lunds and Byerlys or a short drive to Kowalskis. 

Schools

Children living in this area will attend St. Paul public schools Horace Mann Elementary, Highland Park Middle School, and Highland Park Senior High.

Whether you like historic homes with that old fashioned charm or you’re looking for new construction urban townhomes, this neighborhood has both, along with all the things that people choose city living for. 

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!

Living in Minneapolis

Is MN affordable? Cost of Living update Minneapolis 2022

A lot of people say that they choose to move to Minneapolis because it’s a nice sized city with an affordable cost of living. Most of the people that I work with are moving to Minnesota from out of state and are often coming from more expensive parts of the country. But not everyone is! Today I want to take a look at the cost of living in the Twin Cities and how it compares to some other areas that I see people coming from as well as other cities in the Midwest.

How is Cost of Living determined?

“Cost of living” is a term used by economists and it’s actually an INDEX, so every place in the US is compared to the national average, which is considered 100%.  If a city has a cost of living lower than the national average, it will be expressed as some percentage less than 100 and a higher than the national average cost of living will be a number that expresses HOW MUCH higher than the national average it is as in 100+ x%.

Cost of living in Minneapolis

The magic number for Minneapolis is close to 103% of the national average. This index is broken down into segments like housing, transportation, food, and entertainment and then the number given is the one that consolidates all of these.

Having a cost of living index of 103% of the national average is really a comforting number if you’re looking for an affordable city! I’m going to give you the current COL #’s for other cities in the US as well as cities specifically in the Midwest so you can see how we stack up. Remember that this is looking at ALL areas of the country and typically urban areas are much more expensive. 

Housing

black handled key on key hole
Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

Housing is the most expensive part of nearly everyone’s budget. Minneapolis is at 117% of the national average. If you’ve ever seen one of my market update videos you’ll understand what drives that, but its a combination of low housing supply, low interest rates and a big bubble of first time buyers that are hitting the market right now.

Food

Here in Minneapolis we are right near the national average for food pricing, sitting at 101% of the national average. 

info from Numbeo 2/6/22

Transportation

For transportation costs, Minneapolis sits higher than the national average at 108%. This includes an average of cost of gasoline, car insurance and maintenance expenses, and mass transit fare for the area. I was a little surprised by this one because I just returned from a trip to NE Ohio and gas prices were consistently higher than what I have paid in MN everywhere east of us. According to AAA, auto fuel prices in MN are LOWER than the national average. 

info from AAA

Healthcare

computer desk laptop stethoscope
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Healthcare is at a wonderful 75% of the national average!  The past couple of years have shown us all how important this piece is for everyone, and not only are our costs lower here, but we also have access to some of the best healthcare in the world with the Mayo Clinic being located within easy driving distance of Minneapolis and many high quality hospital systems within the twin cities area itself.

Micellaneous Costs

people in concert
Photo by Sebastian Ervi on Pexels.com

Miscellaneous costs come in at 108% these include those goods and services not included in the other cost of living categories, including clothing, restaurants, repairs, entertainment, and other services.

Compared to other large metros across the US

If we compare Minneapolis to large metro areas like New York, San Diego, or Chicago we see that, no surprise, it’s more affordable here.

Housing in NYC is 441% HIGHER than Minneapolis, and cost of living there is 141% higher, San Diego is 35% higher overall with housing 110% higher, and Chicago – where I came from – is 15% higher overall but housing in particular is 54% higher than Minneapolis. 

Housing is the biggest driver of whether an area is affordable or not – we all need a roof over our heads! 

Coming from Texas

I see a lot of people coming to Minneapolis from Texas, most commonly the Austin area, but definitely from all over and Austin is actually coming in at 4% less expensive than Minneapolis. Rents are higher in Austin, but median price to purchase a home is slightly lower there. 

Other Midwestern Cities

Looking closer to home, at smaller cities in the Midwest, Madison WI is actually MORE expensive to live in than Minneapolis – housing is 8% higher, food 3% more expensive and healthcare a whopping 19% more expensive. 

Minnesotans will definitely question why anyone would pay MORE to live in Wisconsin. I mean. It just doesn’t make sense. 

Milwaukee WI (if you love your Pabst!) is the bargain area with overall costs being 2% less, but still getting you where it hurts if you need to go to the dr. 

Bargain Cities of the Midwest

Saint Louis has a 17% lower cost of living index than Minneapolis. Everything from housing, transportation, entertainment is lower – they do come in slightly higher on food and Des Moines Iowa is also a bargain, coming in with a lower cost of living on every metric and the net saving is 24%!

grey arc building under blue sky
Photo by Brittany Moore on Pexels.com

If you have questions about living in or moving to Minneapolis or the twin cities reach out! I’m happy to help! If you’re curious about different neighborhoods or suburbs, check out my playlist on my YouTube channel where I talk about exactly that!