A Guide to Buying a House in: Nebraska

(Because "Omaha" is so fun to say)

 Downtown Omaha skyline with the Heartland of America Park

So, you want to buy a house in Nebraska - maybe. You're in the right place, because we've compiled a sneak preview of Nebraska's housing market, just for you. We'll cover all the nitty gritty  you need to know about home-buying in The Cornhusker State (doesn't that nickname just make you want to pack up and move there immediately?), and even toss in a bit of fun stuff to balance it out. Let's get rollin'.

The Most and Least Expensive Cities in Nebraska

When you start to narrow down your potential upcoming move to the specific city, it might help to know which places will need to see more or less of your money friends. We whipped up a short list of a few in each category. Here it comes.

Most expensive cities:

  • Lincoln
  • Kearney
  • Seward
  • Columbus
  • Papillion 

Least expensive cities:

  • Alliance
  • Chadron
  • Sidney
  • Scottsbluff
  • Wayne

And there it is. Now you can pick the city to call your next home while keeping your financial situation in mind. No matter where you choose to buy your new house, you can always find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

Nebraska's Housing Market

Before you get your new house in Nebraska, you might wanna know a little bit about the housing market there. We'll check out an overview in just a sec.

Omaha currently has a serious housing shortage due to low inventory - it's actually at a 20-year low, as of 2018.  There's also a super-quick turnover rate, meaning homes are selling crazy-fast like those Cabbage Patch dolls in the '80s. However, the state as a whole has a healthy market - and it'll stay that way as long as buyer demand keeps increasing. 

It's currently a seller's market, and homes spend an average of 75 days on the market. People are getting tired of renting, so home prices are predicted to keep rising as more people start buying. 

Despite the current housing shortage, Omaha is still THE place to go in Nebraska. The city's even been ranked among the best places to live in the country. It's a lively urban center with a great food scene and lots of job opps. 

Home values here average about $166,300 currently. List prices for homes are averaging $230,000, and closing prices come to about $172,300. Renting a house costs around $1,300/month. Home values in 2018 were up 5.9% from the previous year.

Lastly, check this out - Nebraska's new construction scene isn't super happenin' right now. There is a bit of development underway along the east coast of the state, around Omaha and Lincoln. There's also a tiny bit popping up in the more central area of the state, around Kearney. So if you're dead set on a brand-new place, head to those areas first.

Home Property Values and Costs in Nebraska

Awesome, so that's a bit about WHERE to start your search, but what about home values/costs? We'll check into all of that next.

To start off, the average home value in the state is currently $157,800. Homes are listed on the market for an average of $205,000, and are closing for around $176,700. The price per square foot is about $137. You can rent a house for about $1,275/month. As far as home appreciation goes, values rose 6.3% in 2018, but are expected to fall about 0.3% before the end of the upcoming year.

Well that's all great, but what about apartments/condos, you say? Well, places in Lincoln are listed for an average of $911/month. In Omaha, places are listed for about $883/month. Places in Papillion are going for about $877/month. In Gretna, listings average $973/month, and in Bellevue, they're around $1,004/month.

Townhouse peeps, you're up next. The average range in rent for townhouses in Nebraska starts low at about $460/month for a two-bed/one-bath place, and ends with a high of about $2,150/month for a four-bed/three-bath place.

You'll Want to Look Over Your Tornado Coverage in Nebraska

Well, you've got an idea of where to look for a place in Nebraska and about how much it'll cost, but do you know about the state's specific insurance policy requirements? Listen up: Nebraska gets a lot of visits from tornadoes. In fact, the majority of the state is located in Tornado Alley. So what does this mean for you? 

Well, that you'll need to review the insurance you've got, to make sure you don't need any more. Luckily most homeowners insurance policies include coverage for tornadoes, but you'll need to check out your specific policy to up your confidence level to bulletproof status.

Some policies may require you to get an additional, separate tornado insurance rider, or to specifically name tornadoes among the 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.

It's super-important that you know exactly what's covered under YOUR specific policy, because finding out that you weren't sufficiently covered AFTER a disaster is almost definitely not on your list of the most fun things ever. Don't hesitate to call up your agent with any questions you may have - even if you're the tiniest bit unsure. It's always better to ask. Trust us.

Quality of Schools in Nebraska

Those looking to factor in some more edu-ma-cation after they make their move might wanna know about the school system in Nebraska. So let's check that out next.

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

  • #14 overall for the US
  • #12 in quality
  • #28 in safety

The top-rated schools in Nebraska are Elkhorn South High School, in Omaha, and the University of Nebraska, in Lincoln.

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

Okay great, serious stuff over - time for the fun stuff. (Woohoo!) You might be wondering why someone would even WANT to move to Nebraska at all. Well, rather than take our word for it, let's check in with some people who actually live here.

PROs (as voted by real-life Nebraskans):

  • Education: Nebraska's earned itself a spot in the top 10 states for education in the country, at #9, for factors like the cost of tuition, quality of education, graduation rates and debt after graduation. There are also more than 20 universities here, so there are some serious opportunities to get your higher learning on.
  • Cost of living: U.S. News & World Report ranked Nebraska as the 5th-most affordable state in the country in 2018. The cost of living rank for the state was #13, and the cost of housing came in at #4. The agricultural industry largely powers the state's economy, and Nebraska enjoys a lower poverty rate and better employment rates than its surrounding states. Rock on, Nebraska.
  • Top-rated cities: Nebraska's home to not just one, but TWO top-rated cities to live in the country - Lincoln and Omaha. Omaha's got tons of activities for social butterflies, and houses about a quarter of the entire state's population. Lincoln's a great place to be an entrepreneur, and it's home to more than 130 miles of walking/biking trails. There's also a huge food and arts scene, and plenty of museums. It's a "big city with a small-town feel," for those who are into that sorta thing.
  • Sunsets: We've been told that you haven't SEEN a sunset til you've seen one, Nebraska-style. With its low population density (ranked 43 in the country), it lacks the light (and other) pollution that most states have, making for a clearer view of the pretty things nature likes to do. And be sure to check out the view of the stars after the sunset's over. You're welcome.

CONs (also from the mouths of real Nebraskans):

  • Landlocked: Have you seen Nebraska lately? It's landlocked - pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the country, too. So you'd have to travel far (like REALLY far) to reach either of the coasts. This means the place is seriously lacking in beaches - like, 100% ­ - cause there aren't any. It's a prairie state, so if that sort of scenery appeals to you, you'll love it. But keep in mind that it's basically the only type of terrain you'll be looking at here.
  • Tornadoes: Yup, we warned you about these things. With the majority of the state sitting not-so comfortably in Tornado Alley, it's not surprising that Nebraska sees more tornadoes annually than any state in the US. If you'd prefer to keep your cows and other property firmly secured to the ground, you might wanna consider a state outside of Tornado Alley.
  • Lack of amenities: We're taking the locals' word for it, here - there isn't a whole heck of a lot in the way of nightlife or other entertainment in Rhe Cornhusker State. This isn't to say that the locals don't know how to have fun, of course, but if you want a state with lots of "things to do" built into it, you may need to look elsewhere.
  • Crazy climate: Nebraska apparently has CRAZY dry winters. You think you're applying a ridiculous amount of lotion in your current state during the winter months? You're likely to up that - significantly - if you move here. Also, locals point out that every season in this state sees extreme temperatures. So, if you're into VERY cold winters and VERY hot summers, this place could be your jam.

Stuff to Do in Nebraska

Alright, so now we know a bit about WHY people might want to move to Nebraska, but WHAT will they do, once they get there? The locals were kind enough to offer up a short list of a few insider's secrets to staying entertained in this place, from parks to markets to star parties. (Yeah, you're intrigued, aren't you?)

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

  • Henry Doorly Zoo: This world-renowned zoo is located in Omaha and was granted the honorary title of "World's Best Zoo" by TripAdvisor in 2014, and more recently earned the silver medal in USA Today's "10 Best Reader's Choice Awards," coming in second for "Best Zoo," in 2018. Since its opening in 1894, this place has created the largest glazed geodesic dome and the largest nocturnal exhibit on the continent. It's a big deal, in a lot of ways.
  • Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park: Not far from Royal, you can check out a ginormous reserve of fossils that were left behind after a volcano erupted long, long ago. Check this park out to get yourself a look at the Midwest's prehistoric days. You can also check out some of paleontologists' latest discoveries, like the oldest species of horses and camels.
  • Omaha's Old Market: Locals love this hot spot. It's 12 blocks packed full of cutesy shops, galleries and restaurants. It also lives in the town's old warehouse district, so it's got that charm working for it, as well. 
  • Nebraska Star Party: About 30 miles southwest of Valentine, stargazers gather each August at the Merritt Reservoir Snake River Area Campground to visually soak in the glowing dots in the sky. And with some of the darkest and clearest skies in the country, it's not hard to see why...literally. 
  • Oregon Trail Days: In Gering, you'll find an event that is just so Nebraska. No, they don't sit around and play the old text-based DOS strategy game from the early '70s. It's one long weekend of parades, food and culture. It's the state's oldest festival and one of their biggest annual events. Do you have what it takes to be a Nebraskan? You'll find out real fast, if you attend.

Marking Your Territory in Nebraska

Alright folks, there you have it - our super-short insider's guide to all things home buying in Nebraska. Obviously we can't act like we've touched on EVERYTHING you're concerned about when thinking over a move here (we've got some stars to gaze), but we're hoping you feel more informed than when you joined us.

If the open prairies of Nebraska are calling out to you, then you'd better hop on the next car/train/bus/Segway out there. Make sure your new home is covered properly with an affordable home insurance policy.

Good luck.

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