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

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

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. 


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

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. 


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, but schools welcome visitors that want to tour and get questions answered before making a decision.


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!

market updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Median Price TC Metro Single family Homes

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

Months supply of Single Family Homes

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

Days on market – SFH

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

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

Median Price for Townhomes

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

Months supply of Townhomes

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

Condo median price

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

Months supply of condos

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

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

Offer Acceptance Rate: 42%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financing Types:

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

Conventional 68.5%, – a little lower than its been 

FHA 8.5%, higher! 

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

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

Seller Paid Closing Costs: are at 12%

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

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

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

See you then! 

Home Buying · home selling

March Real Estate Market Update

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

A bright spot for buyers?!!

Last time I posted about the market I gave an overview of “absorption rates”, this is going to be a recurring theme, so if you want to check that out you can find that post here:

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.


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 · Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Josh Hild on

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

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

Photo by Lina Kivaka on


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

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

Cost of Living

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

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

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

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

Photo by Pixabay on


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

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

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

Income / Education

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

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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