I have been working with plenty of Buyers these days that are asking about condo and loft foreclosures in downtown Minneapolis. Many of them want to know how to go about seeing these units and more importantly if they are worth checking out. Others are asking the big picture question everyone seems to want to know which is: where is this market going? My response on this has been a few stats from 2008 and also some qualitive data that I see with the Buyers and Sellers that I come into contact with. Looking at a few stats 2008, downtown Minneapolis started out with roughly 800 or so listings, as of 12/1/2008 70% of those listings have gone pending or sold which is roughly the same amount of activity that has occured in 2007–not amazing year over year numbers however not bad given the times. The average (mean) price of a new-construction condo in 2008 is currently 10.8% higher than 2007; $389,094 in 2008 vs. $351,205 in 2007 for a never-lived-in 1-2 bedroom, 1,450-square-foot Downtown home. Couple this with the fact that every weekend when I hold an open house I get the same consistent buyer demographic: everyone from all walks of life wants to make the move downtown. Bear in mind these events are happening in trying economic times. My point is despite this ecomonic period buyers are still making the decision to purchase downtown.
This picture is a shot of the a unit on the ground level of the restored Whitney Building located in the Mill District. Click the picture for an interesting story on another couple making the move downtown from another part of the country.
I have noticed more and more, when I sit down with clients to find out the reason for choosing to live in downtown Minneapolis over the burbs a big issue that comes up is: Transportation Costs. As gas prices trend upward it has struck a nerve with Buyers and the market is responding. We are seeing much more Buyer and Seller activity within the downtown core than anywhere else in the market right now and to be honest I don’t see this changing anytime soon. In the past Buyers lived the urban life for a variety of reasons. Now Buyers are being lured into city living now for some very specific economic reasons-transportation costs. It is universally accepted that low gas prices-while they move up and down a bit-are a thing of the past in our country. As this happens I see more Buyer’s taking a step back and asking a serious question: How much time and money do I want to spend commuting?
One of the last sites along the Mill District is soon to be home to apartment towers, townhomes and a green-roofed parking ramp. The Marmont Apartments will be a 358-unit rental project at 2nd Street and 11th Avenue South. The project is being developed by veteren Steve Frenz, the developer behind the Bookmen Lofts and Bookmen Stacks in the North Loop. A green roof would top the two-story parking ramp. The roof would include a lap pool and green space for residents that overlooks the river and Gold Medal Park. Frenz said the ramp would be partially masked by two residential towers, 10 and 12 stories high. The towers would be connected by a glass bridge and wrapped in 10 townhomes, two stories each, fronting South 2nd Street and 11th Avenue.
A bike and coffee shop would stand near Gold Medal Park on the corner of 11th Avenue and 2nd Street, Frenz said.
This would be the second apartment project to develop within the Mill District as earlier this year Village Green Companies went to the city with plans of a 5 story apartment building on the site of the former “Portland” condo development west of the Park Ave Lofts. Stay tuned for another update on the Mill District development!
One of the most recently completed buildings to change the skyline of Minneapolis has been Skyscape Condominiums. This 27 story building is located right next to Grant Park Tower and the Ivy Hotel+Residences in Elliot Park, an urban neighborhood on the southeastern side of the city dotted with mostly historical brownstones. Skyscape is mixed-use which means there is a great commercial component on the first floor of the building. Currently there is a CVS Pharmacy that operates on the first floor of the building.
To the residents that live in Skyscape, the main attraction has always been access to the city skyways and light rail transit that connects the city with the Mall of America and the Minneapolis Airport. Living only blocks away from jumping into the Skyway has made the urban commute enjoyable and now bearable for some during the Winter season!
Milliken Development, owner of the former Washington Ave Jaguar Dealership announced January 14th they plan to go before the Minneapolis Planning Commission to finalize the details of a mixed-use project. The project currently is set to include a Whole Foods on the first floor with some other commercial components. Above the ground level would be six floors of high-end apartments totaling approximately 250 units. The developers noted the block would be developed in such a way as to allow future expansion of an additional two towers reaching somewhere between 12 and 20 stories respectively. Once approved through the city Milliken Development would begin demolition as early as spring of next year. The developer plans to achieve a base LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which is a designation for sustainable design.
Over the past few years there have evolved a few sites on the web that give anyone relatively easy access to real estate listings all over the country. Recently the site Trulia has taken things a step further by incorporating the mounds of data from the MLS (local Real Estate listing service) and google maps together on one site. Since its launch in September of 2005, the site has grown to 1.5 million unique monthly visitors with 2 million properties for sale. The site’s “heat maps” allow users to compare prices and popularity by state, county, city or neighborhood. The local real estate guides provide information such as sales statistics, real estate price trends and community information such as crime statistics. Click the picture below for a tour.
So I have been working with a client for the past few weeks checking out various condo projects in Minneapolis. My client has lived in Uptown for quite some time now in a older brownstone. When we first started looking she was after the whole exposed brickwork and raw space look. Living in more of a raw space myself I could understand her rational on this value. However as we started to narrow things down a bit a something jumped out that I have seen time and time again: Association Dues vary significantly from project to project depending on a number of factors involved.
Her top pick was a condo in the North Loop that had been around for quite some time–in fact it was one of the first conversions in the city from an old factory to lofts. This particular unit had been kept up very well. She loved the exposed brick and ductwork. The views of the river were also fantastic–however here’s the clincher: parking was not included and the dues, parking and electric for a 1 bedroom unit ran close to $600/month! How can that be you ask? Well there’s a few reasons: the age of the building can dictate the costs involved to keep it maintained. This building had an older roof and windows that were going on 20 years old–because of this the Homeowners Association was building up reserve funds to pay for these capital improvements to the building. Also in this particular situation the parking was not owned rather it was rented. Some of the early oversight by developers of the late 80’s and early 90’s was not to include parking within the structure in hopes to keep the pricing of the units reasonable for buyers. In hindsight they didn’t realize how the density of the city would someday require enclosed parking for most all condo units.My clients second choice: a relatively new condo in the same area with similar square footage. The reason? Dues on a newer building were a fraction of the conversion’s dues, parking was included as well as Warranties from the developer (more on that next time). After sitting down and going over the numbers of both options it became clear which made more dollar$ and sen$e and she is now a happy condo owner!
In the Minneapolis/St Paul market there are thousands of agents out there working with buyers and sellers. Many of the agents sell all sorts of Real Estate-however few focus on a particular niche of the market and stick to it.
As one of the top real estate agents in downtown Minneapolis, Ben Ganje has been involved with numerous condominium projects in the past and is currently selling Skyscape Condos and working with other buyers and sellers in the market.
Unlike a typical single family home, condominiums have a completely different set of details to understand and having an agent that can explain these and interpret them to your advantage is for a successful buying or selling experience. If you are thinking of looking to buy or sell it may be a good idea to have a conversation with Ben about your next step in the Urban Life!