Best Places to Live... Even Now
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Best Place to Raise a Family
Measured on a per-person basis, Lakeville has less crime, fewer traffic accidents, and fewer fires than most cities half its size. Its crime rate is the eighth-lowest among Twin Cities communities reporting figures to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. And, according to figures tracked by the Department of Public Service, the number of fire calls and traffic accidents are also low, at least if you factor in the size of the city’s population. And Lakeville looks after its kids: Nearly 55 percent of all households contain at least one youngster, and the city’s schools consistently rank high among the state’s finest. All of which may explain why young families flock to this suburb.
Best Place to Save on Your Taxes
The residents of this small burg had the lowest effective tax rate of 113 metro-area cities studied by researchers at the St. Paul–based Citizens League. A resident owning a home worth $414,016, the average market value in the community, paid $3,367 in city, county, school, and other local taxes in 2008. That might sound like a lot, but the effective tax rate was just .813 percent—a figure that might especially inspire envy among citizens in Carver, where the effective tax rate was 1.39 percent—the highest in the metro.
Best Place to Commune with Nature
The motto of the city of Columbus is “Rural Nature. Urban Access.” It’s a straightforward slogan whose first part proves more than true. Some 34 percent of the land within city limits is devoted to parks, nature preserves, wetlands, or some other form of greenspace, making it the most “wild” place to live in the metro, based on an analysis of 2005 Met Council data. With 2.6 acres of such greenspace per resident—10,482 acres total—there’s more than enough nature to go around.
Best Place to Hobnob with Millionaires
Among the four communities where the median price topped $1 million last year, Tonka Bay saw the highest number of new listings: 70. The other three communities in that elite million-dollar club may have had swanker offerings, but the pickings were slimmer: Woodland had just 9 new listings in 2008, Sunfish Lake had 24, and Mendota just 6. Tonka Bay, in contrast, offered well-heeled buyers ample opportunity to find the palace of their dreams. Or, at the very least, the rambler that’s next door to their sugarplum chateau.
Best Place to Drive a Hard Bargain
Cheese ripens. Wine ages. And in Independence, the typical property languishes on the market for 231 days—acquiring the kind of musty scent that signals to buyers that the home is overpriced or no one’s interested. Either way, the buyer is at an advantage: There’s a good chance that a shrewd purchaser can cut a deal—especially if a homeowner needs to sell. Last year, the average buyer managed to get nearly 13 percent shaved off the
original offering price.
Best Place for First-time Homebuyers
As foreclosures have flooded the market with affordable homes on the North Side, prospective first-time homebuyers have taken notice of the low prices. But finding a gem will take considerable effort and a “hardy” constitution, says Emily Green, of Sandy Green Realty. The area isn’t as crime-ridden and blighted as the nightly news suggests, but the condition of homes priced under $100,000 often can be startling. And big problems—a broken radiator system, for example—may make it impossible to find financing. Still, Green says patient and diligent shoppers who are committed to living in the area will eventually discover a jewel: “If you are a buyer approved for $150,000, you can find a very nice house.”
5 TIPS FOR BUYERS
1. SHOP AROUND FOR AN AGENT
Find an agent who has worked in your desired area for some time. They should know where the parks, highways, schools, and commercial centers are. “You deserve an agent who knows your target neighborhood,” says Marian Peterson, an agent with Edina Realty.
2. EXPECT TO PUT SOME MONEY DOWN
Many buyers are being asked to put 15 to 20 percent down. If you’ve got a decent credit score, however, you’ll probably be able to put down less.
3. DON'T ASSUME YOU CAN BARGAIN
Most sellers are pricing their properties fairly from the start in order to get them to move. Lowballing your offer won’t help, says Ellen Beecher, a Coldwell Banker Burnet agent. “The seller can only go so low if it’s fairly listed.
4. CASE THE 'HOOD
Follow the school buses around to see where kids get dropped off. Spend a morning at the local Starbucks. Shop the local grocery. You’ll get a better feel for the neighborhood.
5. BACK YOUR OFFER WITH RESEARCH
Find an agent who can do comparisons with other properties. “If you’re gonna go 20 percent lower than the asking price, you better have reasons,” says Peterson.