Figure out your needs
Monthly cost of owning a home
Phase 2: Looking
Looking at homes
Types of homes
Single Family Homes
Types of sellers
Researching A Home's Public Information
When you rent, you can always move after the lease is up. When you buy, you’ll be there for a longer term, think 5-10 years or more. Because of this the neighborhood you choose is more important than when you rent. If you choose a home that is hard to get to, and you have to go on a certain side street to access a one-way street and then turn down an alley, keep in mind that you’ll be doing that every day for 5 to 10 years.
Selecting your ideal neighborhood will depend on many factors. Some of the most important factors contribute to the every-day enjoyment of your home.
Community. Many people desire to be close to parks, schools, shopping and more. Consider if you have to drive to the corner store, or if you would prefer to walk to the local grocery store. Other things you may wish to consider is if the area is walkable to nightlife, such as Uptown or Downtown. Or maybe you want to be able to walk to a local park.
Character of the home / neighborhood. Some people love that all the houses look the same in the neighborhood. Some people love that all the houses look different in the same neighborhood. You want to make sure that the character of the house styles is attractive to you. I have a website dedicated to the house styles in Minneapolis and St Paul. Either way, be sure that you enjoy the scenery of the buildings in the neighborhood itself.
Crime and Safety. Everybody wants to be in a “safe” neighborhood, but the definition of “safe” can vary from person to person. You should check with the local police department to figure what an acceptable level is to you. There are many resources available so that you can analyze what is "safe" to you. One website, RaidsOnline.com, has many cities crime information on it.
Access. Whether it is close to the freeway, or close to major roads can be important. Think of how far your school or work is from the home. Think of how long a commute you want to have. Easy access to the major freeways is a bonus for many buyers. Also consider the bus routes or the light rail lines.
The best thing is for you to figure out what is important to you and select the neighborhood based on your factors.
Is walkability important for you? Some people want to be near Uptown Minneapolis where you can walk to several restaurants, stores, and bars easily. You can use the website www.WalkScore.com to see how they rate certain areas. Large parts of Uptown have a very high walk score, in the 80's and 90's. This is because most amenities are walkable from many areas within Uptown. Same goes for Uptown.
If you consider Apple Valley, the walkscore is much lower. This is because it will almost always require a car to get to the local grocery store, or Target, or restaurant. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just a consideration.
Researching Home Values
There are a number of different ways to find values of houses that have recently sold. Doing this research will give you a good idea of the prices in different areas. This can be helpful once you know how much house you can afford. It can also help narrow down areas so that you don't end up looking in areas that you can't afford.
There are several places that you can get statistical information by city or area or region. The Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS is one such place. Look on the home page. 10k Market Research also provides much information.
I can also provide localized detailed statistics from the MLS system for individual areas, or neighborhoods, or cities. Here is an example of Southwest Minneapolis, Single Family (vs condo vs townhouse), Traditional (vs lender mediated), Previously Owned (vs new construction) homes: