A Guide to Buying a House in: Minnesota

(The houses here are almost as nice as the people)

A red canoe rests on a rocky shore in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota

Are you ALMOST set on buying a house in Minnesota, but still on the fence because hunting in the subzero temperatures sounds like no fun? Well, you're in luck. We've gone on a hunt of our own through the depths of the inter-webs to compile this handy-dandy little guide to the housing market in The North Star State (bingo - one of their nicknames) just for you. We'll give you the important deets and throw in some tasty morsels of fun stuff on the side. So, let's get right to it.

The Most and Least Expensive Cities in Minnesota

No one likes making big decisions, even when it comes to picking out which exact city you'll be buying your next house in. Knowing which places in the state require the most/least of your hard-earned dough can help, though. We made up a list of a few places in each category. Check it out.

Most expensive cities:

  • Lake City
  • Winona
  • Orono
  • Shorewood
  • Edina

Least expensive cities:

  • Albert Lea
  • Austin
  • Stewartville
  • Rochester
  • Redwood Falls 

And there it is. Now you're ready to choose the city that's right for you, while keeping your financial sitch in mind. No matter where you choose to buy your new house, you can find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

Minnesota's Housing Market

Another good thing to consider before moving to Minnesota (or anywhere, for that matter) is just what the heck the housing market is up to. So we'll groove right along to an overview for The Gopher State (mhmm, another nickname) next.

It's currently a seller's market here. Inventory's been an issue for a while - in fact, all through 2017, housing supply was at the lowest it's been in more than a decade. Not to fret, though - the market's still been ranked as "very healthy." Homes stay on the market for an average of three months.

But that low supply mixed with a high demand from buyers does make home prices tick upwards - as well as mortgage rates. They're expected to reach 5% by the end of 2018. But don't freak out, experts still say that homes should remain affordable. Shoo. 

Of course, THE hottest places to move in the state are the Twin Cities - Minneapolis and St. Paul - which combined hold about 60% of the state's population. Both cities have a ton of cool art museums, tasty restaurants, brewpubs, hiking trails and other outdoor activities. So you can't go wrong. 

Home values in Minneapolis average $260,900 currently - they went up 7.1% in 2018, and are expected to rise another 6% in 2019. Home prices are about $251 per square foot. Homes are listed on the market for around $285,000 and sell for about $242,400. Renting a house costs about $1,700/month.

St. Paul's average home value is $212,500 - values were up 6.2% in 2018, and they're expected to rise another 7.4% in 2019. Home prices are about $189 per square foot. Homes are listed on the market here for about $219,900, and sell for about $205,100. Renting a house costs about $1,478/month.

And check this out - there's a decent amount of new construction popping up here, too - mainly in/around the Twin Cities. There's also a bit surfacing further to the southeast, around Rochester. Additionally, new development is scattered throughout the center of the state - but there's virtually nothing happening in the northwestern corner.

Home Property Values and Costs in Minnesota

It's great to know WHERE to search, but wouldn't you like to know HOW MUCH you might be paying for your new house? Thought so. So, we're moving right along to home values/prices next.

For starters, the median home value in Minnesota is $225,210, with homes currently listed on the market at an average of $265,900. Median rent is around $1,500/month. The average price of homes sold is $218,900. Home values went up 8.2% in 2018, and are predicted to rise another 4.9% in the upcoming year. The price per square foot is about $180.

As far as apartments go, the state's capital, St. Paul, has one-bedrooms going for an average of $1,076/month. Minneapolis is a bit pricier, with one-bedrooms going for $1,223/month, and two-bedrooms for $1,635/month. However, in some of the state's smaller towns, like Hoyt Lakes, you can find places for as low as $450/month for a one-bedroom.

Alright, townhouse fans - you're up. As shown on Zillow, the range in rent for townhouses starts around $500/month for a one-two bed/one-bath joint, and reaches up to about $3,895/month for a five-bed/four-bath joint.

Consider Tornado Coverage in Minnesota

Natural disasters...every state's got 'em. Minnesota is no exception. It sits comfortably (or not) at the very tip of Tornado Alley, meaning this place gets its fair share of visits from these windy cones/ropes. In fact, as of mid-2018, Minnesota had already confirmed seven of 'em for the year - but that's actually on the low side for them. 

Anyway, what does all this mean for you? Well, that you'll need to check out your homeowners insurance, to make sure you don't need more coverage. Luckily, most policies include coverage for tornadoes - but you'll need to double-check yours, specifically, to make extra-amazingly sure.

Some policies may require you to get an additional, separate tornado insurance rider, or to specifically name tornadoes among events that you want them to cover. Damage to your actual home and personal possessions is typically covered by a regular homeowners policy. 

If you're a renter, your renters insurance should cover your personal property, while your landlord should cover building damage. Your policy is also likely to provide short-term housing in case the storm is extra-nasty and leaves you temporarily homeless, which wouldn't be cool.

Do yourself a favor and just learn EXACTLY what your policy covers, to avoid any potential headaches in the future. It's NOT fun to find out too late that something wasn't covered. So don't be shy about calling up your agent to go over things with you again. They won't mind. Promise.

...and Maybe Flood Insurance, Too

Minnesota's also known as The Land of 10,000 Lakes - and while these lakes are pretty and full of fun stuff to do, they also have the potential to create flooding and a mess a' trouble. So, you might need to get some flood insurance.

If you live in an area deemed to be high-risk, your mortgage lender might require you to purchase extra homeowners insurance coverage specifically for flooding. But it's important to note that even areas not in designated high-risk areas might still need it. Why? Because as that old annoying (but accurate) expression goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Okay okay, so you might need it, but what exactly IS it? Well, broken down, flood insurance will cover your property (the actual structure of your home and the belongings in it - to an extent) if natural water (i.e., rain, waves, etc.) wreaks havoc. Many policies will say that the water must cover at least two acres of normally dry land in order to qualify for reimbursement. 

Tornadoes/floods aren't fun for anyone, and having to pay extra money for more insurance isn't super-fun, either. But it's just something to keep in mind before you lock down that new house in a new place. You could always move to a different state if you're THAT concerned - but really, nowhere's perfect.

Quality of Schools in Minnesota

Those on the quest for knowledge might wanna know about the quality of the school system in their new state, so next up we've got a peek at an overview, Minnesota-style.

Here are some 2018 WalletHub stats about how Minnesota schools ranked in the country:

  • #7 overall for the US
  • #6 for quality
  • #27 for safety
  • #2 for the highest math test scores
  • #4 for the highest median SAT scores 

The top-rated schools in Minnesota are the Nova Classical Academy Upper School (high school) in St. Paul, and the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis.

Reasons to Move to Minnesota (...or not)

Okay, serious stuff - we're done with you (for now). It's time to lighten the mood. Let's find out why someone might even WANT to move to Minnesota. But don't just take our word for it - check out these pros/cons of Minnesota life, from some people who already live it.

PROs (as voted by real-life Minnesotans):

  • Cross-country skiing: It snows a lot in Minnesota (duh), so a favorite local winter activity is (unsurprisingly) cross-country skiing. While there are several resorts throughout the state, some resident favorites are within the Twin Cities - including Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, and Fort Snelling State Park and Battle Creek Regional Park West, both in St. Paul.
  • Awesome autumn leaves: Though there's a heavy focus on winters in this state, locals brag about their jaw-droppingly gorgeous autumns, too. St. Croix is apparently a must-see at this time of year - hundreds of trees are scattered across the rolling hills, all sporting their most fabulous vibrant fall foliage. Hellooo, photo opps.
  • Arts scene: With its multiple art museums, The Gopher State has a happenin' arts scene. Locals love their proud theater district. Guthrie Theater, located in Minneapolis, is a local fave. The Twin Cities also hold several arts festivals each year, including Art-A Whirl and the Edina Art Fair.
  • Cultural diversity: Minnesota's always had lots of immigration, from many different cultures. There's a sizeable population of Hmong-Americans, for example. About 84,000 Minnesotans are originally from Central America, while nearly 40,000 claim Somali ancestry, making Minnesota home to the largest population of immigrants from that East African country in North America. Others are from India, Vietnam, China, Korea and more.

CONs (also from the mouths of real Minnesotans):

  • Extreme winters: Just how cold DO Minnesotan winters get? Dang cold - temperatures of -35 °F have been recorded, and while that's not the norm, many days in winter can/do dip below zero. The first snow typically falls in October, and it's not uncommon to get the last snowfall of the season in May - meaning more than half the year is spent in a Winter Wonderland. Apparently some days here are so frigid that when you walk outside, your snot instantly freezes. Now THAT'S cold.
  • ·Culinary blandness: While there's plenty of cultural diversity here, the cuisine is apparently super-lacking. Locals say that the typical Minnesotan dish is "very meat and potatoes," with not much variety or exotic flavor. The local solution to "spicing up" your meal? Add ketchup. Seriously. Maybe bring some of your favorite recipes from home - you'll have locals thinking you're Emeril Lagasse in no time. (Bam!)
  • Difficulty making friends: The small-town vibe in The North Star State is strong - to a fault. Locals who moved here from other states say they had trouble working their way into social circles made up of people who'd known each other literally forever. Locals may be  "Minnesota Nice," but they're also fiercely loyal to their life-long relationships - so don't expect to make insta-BFFs. Just resist the urge to make any jokes about “Fargo” when you move here, and you'll greatly increase your shot at making fast friends.
  • Not the liveliest of places: Apparently most folks here spend their time fishing, hitting up bars, or staying home. On Quora, a resident said, "I often find myself wondering, Where are the people here?” While it's a great place for some peace and quiet or even isolated indulgence in cabin living, it's perhaps not the best choice for frolicking social butterflies who just wanna get out and mingle.

Stuff to Do in Minnesota

Okay, so we're more clear on WHY people move here, but what do they DO? We hit up the locals again to find out some insider's secrets to having fun 'round here, from giant malls to carnivals and statue huntin'.

Here are just a few of the state's coolest attractions:

  • Mall of America: Bloomington has one of THE biggest tourist destinations in the country. With more than 500 stores, 60 restaurants and the largest indoor theme park in the nation, this mall requires LOTS of caffeine fuel - and spending money. It's got Nickelodeon Universe, the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, the LEGO store, FlyOver America, the Crayola Experience, the Escape Game, black light mini golf and more. Apparently it takes a full three days to explore the whole thing. Prepare to go broke and pass out from exhaustion.
  • Saint Paul Winter Carnival: Minnesotans don't just survive their winters - they CELEBRATE them. One of the main attractions of this annual event is a unique (and chilly) Ice Palace - yes, a palace literally made of ice blocks that you can walk through. Some have contained more than 25,000 ice blocks. There's also snow/ice sculpting contests, beer tastings, musical performances, art exhibits, a torchlight parade, a jigsaw puzzle contest and a Vulcan Krewe. Prepare to get funky - and frostbitten. 
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art: One of the largest art museums in the US, its collection spans more than 20,000 years and it houses more than 80,000 works of photography, paintings, textiles, drawings, prints and decorative arts. The museum features a comprehensive look at art from several different regions of the world. There's a variety of traveling collections, too.
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: At more than 11 acres, this is one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the country. There are 40 permanent works of art and several rotating exhibits. The garden's most famous display is the "Spoonbridge and Cherry" fountain, featuring a 5,800-pound spoon and a 1,200-pound cherry. The stem of the cherry also acts as a fountain. Why settle for normal-sized utensils and fruit when you can see ginormous versions?
  • Paul Bunyan Statues: Minnesota's home to many interesting roadside attractions (about 366 in total), including such oddities as the Jolly Green Giant, Lucette (Paul Bunyan's GF), the world's largest hockey stick (because they're so close to Canada?) and Otto, the big otter. But THE most popular are the Paul Bunyan statues. Legend says the lakes of Minnesota were formed when his footprints filled with water. Plus, with his flannel shirt and blue ox, he's basically the state's mascot - and definitely a BIG deal.

Channeling Your Inner Lumberjack in Minnesota

Alright folks, that's it - our sneak preview of house-hunting in Minnesota, with some fun state trivia as a bonus feature. Obviously we can't address ALL your concerns before making such a biiiig decision (we're still shopping at the M.O.A.), but we've done our best to bring you the basic goods.

If you can't wait to get your new house in the place with the Paul Bunyan statues or the "Minnesota nice" vibes, then get your behind out to Minnesota and make it so. Make sure your new home is covered properly with an affordable home insurance policy.

Good luck.

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