Neighborhood Tours · small towns and exurbs · Uncategorized

Walkable, Charming, White Bear Lake MN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOUSING

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

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

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

Schools

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

Parks

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

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

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

Home Buying · home selling · market updates · Uncategorized

Minneapolis Housing Market 2022 Forecast

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

Prefer to watch rather than read this? 😉


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

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

Sisyphus at work


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

It’s me. I’m stubborn like a mule.

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


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

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

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

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

Absorption Rate

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


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

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

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

Broken down by price point

Median price by property type


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

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

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

Demand side of the equation

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for BUYERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offers that are getting accepted NOW

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

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

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

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

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

Financing Types: 

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

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

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

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

USDA 1%, 

Other 1%

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

Home Warranties included in the sale 5.6%

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

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

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

Neighborhood Tours

Hopkins MN

Want that small town, walkable feel without a major commute? Think about Hopkins! 


If you like a small town feel, with easy access to all of the things that the city has to offer – as well as access to the joys of the more rural areas outside of the immediate metro, Hopkins may be for you!  

Hopkins MN seems to fly under the radar –  it has a tendency to be overlooked, it’s a bit of a small town tucked into a 4 square mile pocket surrounded by the larger, more well known suburbs of Minnetonka, St. Louis Park and Edina.  Hopkins sits just west of Minneapolis, it’s a small suburb with only about 18,000 people and it’s part of in Hennepin County MN.

A little bit of Hopkins history – By the 1920s, growing raspberries had become a big business for Hopkins area farmers. It is estimated that at one time the Hopkins area had over 800 acres planted in raspberries! Most were used for fresh market consumption.  It became known as the “Raspberry Capital of the World.”  Hopkins still celebrates this although now it’s is far from being a farming community – the street signs have a raspberry logo on them and they still hold a festival every year. 

I have done a LOT of videos highlighting different suburbs in the twin cities metro – some of them are circled here, but you should check out my neighborhoods and suburbs playlist on YouTube for more. 

Hopkins
Commute times and other profiled suburbs


Commute times are easy by car – it is only 3 miles to the border of Minneapolis as it is, but driving to downtown takes approximately 20 minutes via 394, or about 24 minutes to MSP airport via 494. 


One of the main things I love about Hopkins is the adorable downtown area.  It still has a historic feel, it’s a walkable city with sidewalks in the city center as well as throughout the neighborhoods which have a lot of pretty, older homes in neighborhoods branching out from the main street area. Main street is lined with shops and restaurants, the local library, post office and city hall are in the town center, as well as the Hopkins Center for the Arts. 


Hopkins has a nice mix of housing – including single family homes, and newer condos that are close to downtown and transportation. Speaking of transportation – Hopkins Station is right on what will be the newly expanded light rail line. Lots of construction around that and the southern portion of the Cedar Lake Trail which runs along side it right now, but once this is completed it should be a real asset to people that live in Hopkins and want to get downtown to to the airport without driving. 


All this charm and convenience and it comes at an affordable price compared to many suburbs in the Twin cities metro area as a whole.  Currently (july 2021) Hopkins Median price for a single family home is $353,100 which is just slightly higher than that of the twin cities as a whole. Property tax in Hopkins is a little higher than in some of the other ‘burbs that I have profiled. The effective tax rate is 1.41%

SFH Median Price
Median price for Condos in Hopkins
current month’s supply of homes (July 2021) – Seller’s Market

While there is a market in the city of Hopkins it isn’t a giant SUPER market – so if you want to do a bigger shop or have a preference for one of the larger chain super markets like Lunds and Byerlys or Cub, or if you want to get to a whole foods, you’ll have to do it outside of the city of Hopkins – but the surrounding suburbs are very close and you probably won’t be inconvenienced much at all to drive to a neighboring town for groceries. 

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


It’s not just groceries that require a trip to a neighboring town – Because of it’s small size and easy proximity to it’s neighbors, Hopkins residents share a lot of the amenities offered by the nearby suburbs. 


For example, residents of Hopkins use and get resident discounts at Shady Oak Beach and park in Minnetonka.  I stopped over there and I was so impressed – it looks like a great place to spend the day playing in the water (they have an inflatable obstacle course that looks like SO much fun!) and if you have little kids there is a playground and areas geared that way as well.  In addition to the beach and lake there is a really nice outdoor dining area so you can come and have fun and pack a picnic or order food at the concession stand and stay all day,  You can pay by the day or buy a season pass. 


Other nearby parks include Lone Lake Park which has tennis & pickle ball courts, a playground, sports fields, picnic area, basketball courts and trails.  It is also a part of Minnetonka. 

road nature man summer
Photo by Pack2Ride on Pexels.com


Hopkins has several regional trails running through it, so if you enjoy biking, roller blading or walking you’re in luck.  There are 4 rail trail connections in Hopkins including the 2 branches of the Cedar Lake Trail, the Lake Minnetonka regional trail (just did an out an back bike ride on this one a couple of weeks ago – 30 relatively flat miles past some gorgeous lake views and through some of the most affluent areas of the Twin Cities Metro) and lastly the Minnesota Bluffs Trail an approximately 10 mile section of aggregate trail that runs south of Lake Minnetonka out to Chanhassen and Chaska.

If you live in Bloomington or just want to bike the south section of the metro you can get on the 9 mile creek regional trail which is both segregated bike trail and some lanes on streets, but it connects from Bloomington (and possibly further east) through Richfield, Edina, Minnetonka and up to Hopkins.  I have ridden this one before as well and there are points that I found less than well marked so it’s good to have your phone with you for GPS. The official tally on this one is about 14.6 miles each way, but if you get lost and wander you can really up your mileage. Good times when you’re tired … not. 


Hopkins schools are ranked highly on Niche.com with an A+ rating, but as I always mention, make sure you do your own homework and meet with the administrators and make sure that the schools are right for YOUR child. Everyone is different. 

Even though Hopkins is smaller, the district boundaries kind of weave their their way through several of the neighboring suburbs and there are some kids that live in pockets of Plymouth, Edina, Eden Prairie, St. Louis Park, and Minnetonka that may attend Hopkins schools. I also did a video on open enrollment in schools in MN, it’s kind of a nice thing to have if you want to send your kid out of district to another school.  Not guaranteed, but an option! 

This post would not be complete if I didn’t let you know where you can get your eye candy – aka books!

Hopkins has a great library and it is right downtown where you can easily bike or walk to it.  It is a part of the Hennepin County Library system, and is one of the 41 branches. If you want a book, they can get it for you!  Hennepin county library has a really impressive budget for books – Ive been looking for the actual number but I can’t find it today! I just remember my jaw hitting the floor followed by green with envy feelings and then realizing that I can read any of those books! The HCL system has recently done completely away with fines too! YAY!! 

photo from hennepin county library


Alright – chickens. I always need to end with chickens and fences.

Chickens are recently permitted in Hopkins – as of August 2020. And fences are allowed – heights vary by where the fence is placed – typically 4′ in front, 6 in back. 

Final recommendation: the Hopkins web site is a very nice source of information for just about any question you can think of regarding the day to day details of living in Hopkins.

If Hopkins is in the running for you I strongly recommend check it out!

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!

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! 

Neighborhood Tours

Golden Valley Minnesota

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, real estate is BUSY right now but I have been working on a profile of Golden Valley & I wanted to share that with you.

I’ve been working with some buyers and we have been spending quite a bit of time in Golden Valley.  Housing in the Minneapolis area is very tight right now and the availability of homes anywhere near the median twin cities home price of $330,000 are hard to find and gone within a day or two, and Golden Valley has been a surprising source of homes in this price range. While it definitely ALSO has higher priced homes, this is still an area that can be considered “affordable” and it has a LOT to offer. And I am going to cover it ALL (or at least a LOT of it!) and I’ll answer the 2 surprising questions I get asked so often about just about every area of the metro. 


Golden Valley gets it’s name from flowing fields of wheat, fields of sunflowers OR Irish immigrants that had fond memories of the River Shannon. As a midwesterner, I’m going to put my money on the wheat.

People are HAPPY there…


The city does a periodic survey of it’s residents to find out how they feel about the community, and 98% of Golden Valley residents give the city an “excellent” or “Good” rating for quality of life. The three top reasons for the rating are Housing and Neighborhoods, People, and Government and Services. I can’t really look at the PEOPLE side of things but I will give you a look at housing and government services. FYI the last survey was in 2016 and here is the link if you care to read it. 


Golden valley is in the NW side of Minneapolis and it is very conveniently located to the city. Since it is a suburb, if you are someone that likes to get away to state’s lakes and cabins in the north and west, you won’t really have to fight the traffic to get there.  

Commute


If you need to commute to downtown and you are taking your own vehicle the drive is about 10-15 minutes.  If you don’t want to pay to park, or you are planning to just hit a Vikings or a Twins game downtown, in the (hopefully) not too distant future you should be able to hop on the newly extended Metro Transit Blue Line light rail extension that will go from downtown and stop in Golden Valley on the way to other NW ‘burbs.  This extension will follow a current railway that is in place and not involve any new tracks. 


If you want to head out of town entirely or have someone heading in to visit, it’s only a 20 minute drive to MSP Airport. 

Types of housing


Most homes in golden Valley were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. If you love midcentury modern architecture THIS is the place – street after street of midmod homes. Some have been updated to a more current aesthetic but others have some true authenticity to them.  There is a market for both!  You’ll see some newer homes in my video tour as well.  A benefit of older housing stock is that they usually built on larger lots than we see today and the landscaping is mature.  The other thing that stands out to me is that typically these neighborhoods have some variation among the homes, you don’t see a lot of the “cookie cutter” feel that you get in newer subdivisions. 


The median home price in May 2021 for Golden Valley is $374,150. This is higher than the Twin Cities Metro as a whole. I have been working with a few buyers that have budgets in the low to mid 300’s and we have found options here! 



What will you pay in property taxes to live in Golden Valley? 


Golden Valley is in Hennepin County which has an effective property tax rate of 1.28% (state average is 1.08%) and Golden Valley property tax is at an effective rate of 1.38%. 

Work


Several large corporations have nice leafy campuses here including the HQs of General Mills and Tennant Company as well as major US offices for  Allianz Insurance, Honeywell & Resideo.  

Parks


Golden Valley, like much of the twin cities, loves their green space and parks.  They are also the home of one of the best parks in the Twin Cities area – Theodore Wirth Regional Park.  It’s 740 acres of happiness and outdoor fun. I’m just going to give you the highlights – in summer enjoy the golf course, disc golf course, beach, walking and biking trails, archery, or fishing and in winter tubing, x-ctry skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, snowboarding, fat tire bike trails… 


15% of Golden Valley is PARK!  There are 2 off-leash dog exercise areas in outdoor hockey rinks at Gearty & Medley Parks, both  are FREE to use. Golden Valley does not require dog licenses, but they DO require a current rabies tag. 

curious golden retriever resting on grassy lawn
Photo by kira schwarz on Pexels.com


Part of the parks are TWO activity / community centers.  Lets start with the basic one – Davis Community Center attached to Meadowbrook Elementary. It’s a 10,000 sq foot gym space with open gym for basketball, pickleball, volleyball, kids gym activities and parks rec leagues. 

basketball team stacking hands together
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com


The crown jewel in Golden Valley is the BROOKVIEW Center.  It’s so pretty!  It started life as a private country club and was purchased by the city in the 1960’s.


There is a beautiful building with a bar and grill and lots of patio seating overlooking the golf course and lawn bowling courts. The city grooms trails for x-ctry skiing and fat tire bikes in winter and if you have little kids that are going nuts indoors and need to burn off energy you can take them to the indoor play space at Brookview and buy yourself some sanity for about $5-$6/day depending on whether you’re a resident or not. 

Schools


Let’s talk about schools – Golden Valley does not have a school district of its own, residents in Golden Valley will send their children to either Robbinsdale Schools OR Hopkins Schools depending on the address of the home.  If you have a preference, it’s important to do your research up front and figure out what will work for you and make sure your home is where it needs to be to be in district.  One school that stood out to me is the Perpich school for the arts – its the tuition free state arts high school and if you have a child who is an artist and this is what they are drawn to more than anything, it might be a place to consider! Seems like such a valuable asset to have this available to students who are serious about the arts.  They even have a residence hall!

Library


Golden Valley has a small branch of the Hennepin County Library system.  The architecture fits with the rest of the town – very midcentury.  Despite it’s smaller size, every branch has access to the enormous number of books within the library system which includes 41 branches including the main branch downtown ad larger satellite branches like Southdale.  They will also request books and other material for you from libraries throughout the state via interlibrary loan. 


OK! Here it is! the TWO QUESTIONS I get asked ALL the time! 


1. Can I fence my yard?  YES – unless your’e in an HOA community that won’t allow it or has some restrictions, you may fence your yard!  Front yards may have a 4′ limit and back yards 6″ high, but see the city web site for rules. 
2. Can I have CHICKENS? YES! Up to 4 HENS per lot. Hennepin county municipalities have nearly all agreed to allow yard birds. 


And last thing – if you have chickens you won’t need much of this because they LOVE veggie scraps, but if you live in Golden Valley they do include municipal composting with trash pick up.  We separate compostables into green bins here and it goes to a large composting facility.  The beauty of this is the ability to compost meat or dairy which aren’t a good idea in backyard composting bins. 


That is ALL I have for Golden Valley today!  If you have questions – reach out! I’d love to chat and see how I can help you. 

Home Buying · home selling

March Real Estate Market Update

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

A bright spot for buyers?!!

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

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

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

Inspections

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

Offer acceptance rates

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

Homes listed on the open market vs witheld

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

Percentage of list price received

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

Seller paid closing costs

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

Forms of financing

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

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

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

Good news for downtown condo buyers!

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

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

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

Let me know if you have questions.

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Things you NEED to know BEFORE you move to Minnesota!

If you’re thinking about moving to Minnesota, there are probably some things that you don’t even realize you need to know. I’m here to help. 🙂

Minnesota Liquor Laws

I moved here from Chicago, and I think the motto there was something like “keep everyone drunk so they don’t notice the high taxes”. There were very few constraints on when or where you could buy alcohol. I was so confused when I couldn’t buy beer on Sunday here – AT ALL.

photo of beer neon signage
Photo by Alex Knight on Pexels.com

Here in Minnesota, you won’t be seeing people crawl home after being at the bar til 4am like you might in Wrigleyville. Liquor can be served here Monday – Saturday 8am-2am, and on Sunday, they hope you hit the 8 am service before you hit the bar between 10am and 2am. In 2017 the Minnesota legislature finally came to their senses and decided that adults should be allowed to decide for themselves if they wanted to buy Devil juice on Sunday and allowed Sunday liquor store sales.

They aren’t going to make it convenient for you though! You will not be grabbing a bottle of wine to have with dinner while you’re at the grocery store. NOPE! You need to go to an actual liquor store to buy your beverage. There are a lot of them, and they do tend to locate close to grocery stores, but it still annoys me. Hot recommendation for one of the best liquor stores I’ve seen- if you are in SW Minneapolis and want a great selection of micro-brews, craft alcohols, and wine stop into South Lyndale Liquors. The people there are super helpful and the variety is just amazing.

Taxes

Everyone’s favorite word! And top of mind for me as we get close to April 15. I feel like I just did my taxes thanks to the extension that we were given last year.

heap of american money cash and vintage light box
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Sales Tax I’m not really much of a shopper (if you meet me you’ll notice my meager wardrobe), but even I had heard about the magic that is shopping for clothing in Minnesota! No sales tax on clothing here – the price is the price! Other items not subject to tax are groceries, prescriptions, and diapers. Everything else has a sales tax of 6.875%, but counties and municipalities may add taxes of their own. Harkening back to Chicago, it was about a 10% premium to buy a burrito after you had your beer in Chicago. (Can you feel the indigestion?)

Property Tax OK, I will continue to compare MN (favorably) to IL here. When we moved here people would frequently make complaints about property taxes. We were confused since the homes we were looking at were like twice the size and half the taxes. Lake County IL has an effective tax rate of about 2.83%, Hennepin county MN is at 1.28%, so you can see why we were thrilled! For a $300,000 home that’s a BIG difference! $8,490 year vs $3,840. The median home price in the Twin Cities metro area is about $309,000.

Let’s look at it regionally and at a state level. Here is a grid of how we compare to our immediate neighbors. We look pretty good!

StateRate
Minnesota1.08%
National Average1.07%
North Dakota.99%
South Dakota1.22%
Iowa1.53%
Wisconsin1.68%

Vehicle Tax Sales taxes are applied when you purchase major items like cars. But the tax I’m thinking of here is the vehicle registration tax – when you get new tags each year in MN the least amount you will pay is $44. The minimum charge is $25 + other fees for cars over the age of 11. MN takes the MSRP of the car and reduces it by 10% each year to determine the tax for tax renewal, so if you buy an expensive car you’ll expect to pay a bit for tags as well.

Airports!

Minnesota actually has FOUR international airports! Ranked by size they are:

Minneapolis/ St. Paul Airport in the Twin Cities. This airport is enormous. Nearly 40,000,000 people fly into or out of MSP every year, which is over 400,000 flights! 87,000 people are employed in some way through MSP. 11 major airlines fly into MSP, Delta, American, and United have major presences in Terminal 1, and Terminal 2 is largely dominated by Southwest.

If you have kids, there is a fun drive-up viewing area to watch planes take off and land, it has parking and picnic tables and can be an entertaining lunch time activity with (or without) kids.

Duluth International Airport Delta, United and Sun Country Airlines fly into and out of Duluth. If you fly out of or into Duluth, you’ll most likely be connecting in Detroit, Minneapolis or Chicago.

Greater Rochester International Airport United, Delta, American, Southwest, and JetBlue are major carriers that serve this airport. They have MANY flights in and out every day. I imagine that this airport exists in support of the world renowned Mayo Clinic.

Finally, the International Falls International Airport. International Falls is a smaller city and they have an international airport because they border directly with our neighbor to the north. They have daily connecting flights to MSP airport on Delta Airlines. I’m charmed by the fact that the web site touts that the airport has vending machines. It’s a small airport, but critical to that region of the state. I am a fan of small airports, because the hassle level is so much smaller, you’re treated like a person not a herd animal.

Gardening

This was a tough one for me, even coming from a northern state like Illinois. I love flowers and like to have home grown tomatoes. The lower third of Minnesota falls into zone 4a for gardening. We don’t plant anything til after the threat of last frost which is Mothers Day. That can feel like an eternal wait at times. So plan on controlling the urge to plant until middle to late May and know that mid September to early October is likely the latest that you can plan to see tender annuals survive.

pink petaled flowers
Photo by Joseph Yu on Pexels.com

If you decide to plant perennials, I would recommend that you be extra cautious and select a hardiness to zone 3. If you like home grown vegetables, and you’re thinking of things like tomatoes and peppers, plan to either start them inside or buy plants that have had a head start so they have time to produce for you before the frost. Of course, cool weather crops have a really happy life here – cabbage, hardy greens like kale and swiss chard do well. I’ve also had great success with herbs, even planted from seed.

Seasons

country road during autumn
Photo by Alex Dayawon on Pexels.com

I’ve said it before, but one of the things that I truly love about Minnesota is that there are four TRUE seasons here! I love them all, but I’m usually ready for the next one when the time comes. The seasons are pretty prompt and take their place right on schedule every 3 months (even though sometimes a season can seem eternal – like a really harsh winter that doesn’t want to quit).

One thing to know is that while MN has a reputation for cold, don’t be surprised in summer when it gets HOT and humid. Spring turns to summer like someone flipped a switch. We have a pretty good stretch of days in the summer that are in the high 80’s and low 90’s. You may not need your AC ALL summer, but there are days when you’ll be very grateful to have it.

Natural Disasters

Sticking with the weather theme, what should you be prepared for? Other areas of the country have things that they are known for – California wild fires, hurricanes on the coast, but these aren’t concerns here.

white clouds over blue sea
Photo by Raychel Sanner on Pexels.com

Things that we worry about (and maybe hope for depending on how old your roof is) are hail storms, severe thunderstorms and tornados. I, personally, want to have a basement to hide in when tornado season is in full swing, and most homes here have them. If you don’t have a basement, head to an interior room without windows if possible. A bathroom with tiled walls work, get into the tub, and if you have a mattress of something that you can put over your heads to protect your head, even better.

In Minneapolis and much of Minnesota, we test our tornado sirens every month on the first Wednesday. This day is my dogs’s worst nightmare and it happens regularly. You should be aware of what day it is and know that we never actually have tornados at 1pm on the first Wednesday of the month. Or at least we hope not, because no one gets alarmed at that particular alarm.

Two sides of the same natural disaster coin are flood and drought. There isn’t much you can do about a drought, but knowing if you’re buying in a flood plain can be very helpful when you’re looking at property and knowing if you need to have flood insurance or not. Our multiple listing service gives us the flood status of lots, but if you’d like to check yourself you can go to the FEMA website and take a look.

Roads

Unlike South Dakota which basically has a sign at the border saying that the speed limit is 80, and don’t let us catch you exceeding that or you’re in deep doodoo, Minnesota has lots of different rules about how fast you can go and when.

photo of empty road in between grass field during golden hour
Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

On rural interstates, the speed limit is 70 MPH, urban expressways and interstates it drops to 65. Other main highways are at 55mph, and when you enter an urban area you can plan on the speed limit being 30. Unless you’re on a neighborhood street in Minneapolis in which case you better know that it’s 20.

We have a lot of potholes here because of the changing weather conditions and you should keep an eye out for them unless you don’t mind getting a flat or having your teeth come down hard on your tongue. People joke about there being 2 seasons, winter and road construction, but there is really only one season – road construction.

We thought moving here would mean moving to a place that had a good handle on snow removal, but I’ve found that it varies widely. In the city of St. Paul it can feel like every man for himself. Suburbs and outer areas handled by the state tend to do a better job clearing with plows and salt or a salt/grit combo. I’m writing this in peak grit season as the snow has melted and it leaves behind the grit. LOTS OF GRIT. It’s unavoidable and annoying, but I appreciate the traction in winter. Hot tip – get an all wheel drive car that has some weight to it and you’ll probably be ok driving on our roads. 😉

Staying warm (or cool)

I’ve been in other parts of the country that seem to rely on electricity to provide heat, but here in Minnesota we primarily use natural gas and forced air furnaces. If you have a forced air furnace you’re also likely to have, or be able to easily install, central air conditioning.

Older homes use radiant heat, either through baseboard radiators, radiant floor heat or the traditional style cast iron radiators that you may have seen. I’m a fan because it’s a constant warm heat rather than a blower clicking on and off all the time, but there are downsides. No ductwork available for the AC, and the air may get very dry in your home.

If you do have radiant heat and still want AC your choices are the old school window units or you can have an attic condenser unit and they will put round ducts in the ceiling for it, or what is called a “mini split” that is kind of a rectangle shaped AC unit installed on the wall. Retrofitting an old home for AC can be a little pricey and it’s important to think about that when you’re considering how you like to live in a home.

cozy fireplace in light minimalist living room
Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

Many people in Minnesota have wood stoves in their homes – we have one! They are a nice addition for mood and heat, but it’s totally an extra that we enjoy, not the way we heat our house. The beauty of a wood stove is that the heat stays in the home, and they are made of cast iron which retains and radiates the heat, so you get that glow and warmth without the heat loss that you can have with a regular fireplace.

What else are you curious about? How does this seem different from where you live now?

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 · small towns and exurbs · Uncategorized

Elk River and Otsego

I had a request from someone on my YouTube channel to do an overview of Otsego. I admit, that isn’t anywhere near the top of the pile for places that people have asked to see so I haven’t spent much time there. As with all of these neighborhood profiles, I learned a lot about what is out that way and some of it made me pretty happy! This is going to be the beginning of a series where I look at smaller towns an exurbs of Minneapolis – I have some video footage ready for Excelsior as well as Northfield and I’m looking forward to both of those as well.

shopping pins where you’ll see stores

The map give a sense of where Otsego & Elk River are – far NW of Minneapolis. It’s definitely what I would consider a 3rd ring suburb / exurb.

What surprised me most was that Elk River is actually the larger hub of economic activity! This is why it’s important to see things in person! Otsego itself is fairly rural with a lot of subdivisions “planted” on farm lands and still a lot of farm surrounding the neighborhoods. If you want a newer home but in a rural environment you may like it in Otsego.

Elk River has a charming and BUSY little downtown area that is right on the Mississippi River. The primary reason I headed that way after looking at Otsego was that I like to show the public library and any other city services and Otsego had the Elk River library listed as the closest, and it IS right next door. The Elk River library was a surprise to me as well – large and modern. I didn’t go into the building, but it exceeded my expectations by a LOT based on their minimal web site.

Elk River Library

Check out the video to get a good look at the downtown and the library. The police department, utilities and parks and rec buildings were similarly new and located directly across the street form the library- my point would be that the residents seem to be investing in their community infrastructure.

Schools

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Otsego is served by three different school districts depending on where your home is located – St. Michael/Albertville, Otsego & Elk River schools. So again, this is a situation where you’ll ask your agent to include or exclude homes based on which district is best for your family. Elk River is served by ISD 728 – Elk River Schools.

Homes

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Home prices in Otsego are higher than in Elk River and I am guessing that is because most of the available housing is in newer subdivisions on former farmland. The median home price in Otsego for a single family home is $366,248 & the median townhome price is $228, 950. For Elk River the median single family home is $330,000 and the median townhome price is $205,000.

Shopping

Otsego has a Target with a liquor store and a few other small shops, but no real “downtown” per se. Elk River has more available but while it has more options including a Menards hardware store and larger groceries, you’ll need to leave this immediate area if you want more choices.

About 10 minutes away is Rogers MN, and Rogers has a lot of shopping and chain restaurants, and then if you continue south to Maple Grove (about 20 minutes drive) you have just about everything that you would expect in a large metro area, including Costco and stores that cater to a larger audience.

Parks

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There is a city park next to city hall in Otsego that has a a splash pad, larger playground, ball fields etc and as I was driving by they had their little zamboni-ish contraption going over the ice of the outdoor skating rink. A+ for the creativity of whoever came up with whatever that was to add a fresh layer of water to the surface – don’t ask me to explain, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Elk River takes it’s parks seriously! I just did a google search to see what is up there and made a squinty face at the list because I thought it was giving me parks from other areas – I could not believe that they have as many as they actually do! So even if you don’t LIVE in Elk River it seems like it might be a good place to visit if you’re looking for some time outside. I guess I should have had an inkling from their beautiful new parks and rec building!

In addition to hiking trails, community parks, a public amphitheater on the river, & 4 outdoor skating rinks, Elk River also has an archery range.

Otsego doesn’t have as robust of a park system – they have many small, neighborhood parks, but when your park map highlights areas in the city that have sidewalks… it seems like they may be reaching a little.

If you go just south of Otsego you can take advantage of a Crow-Hasan Park. It has 18 miles of hiking trails, camping, paddling on the Crow River, off leash dog areas, and it is part of the Three Rivers Park District which is a bit of a curiosity to me because it seems independent of any county or city. It has parks across the metro area and my experience with them has been excellent in all ways so far.

To sum up – I think that if you’re looking for QUIET and space – Otsego may be a good option. Its definitely going to be a very slow pace of life out there, but you can get what you need within a reasonable distance. If you like the small town feel that has a bit more going on but it’s not a “CITY”, check out Elk River. It’s really charming! If Otsego is more your speed, Elk River is right next door and easy to get to. 🙂