Downtown Condos more affordable

The downtown St. Paul condo market has always been unique. The neighborhood is different from any other in St. Paul and so is the housing stock. Many of the condos were built or created in the early 2000s. In the last decade, more rental housing has been created and most of it is luxury apartments.

Median prices in downtown St. Paul are lower than they are for the rest of the city. It wasn’t always that way. Per square foot prices are higher downtown.

Median home sale prices downtown vs the rest of the city


Now and back then – 2009 and 2019

Yesterday I was looking at some numbers from a decade ago. May 28, 2009, to be exact:

Downtown St. Paul had a 9 month supply of condos on the market.  The average cumulative days on market for the 136 condos on the market was  206 days and the average list was $288,344.  

Ten years later there is a 3.2 month supply of condos on the market downtown. There are 27 units on the market and the average number of cumulative days on market is 95 days. The average list price is 386K. 

Some things have not changed. It still takes longer to sell a condo than it takes to sell other types of housing. There isn’t any other type of housing downtown. Condos in other parts of the city sell faster than downtown condos but take longer to sell than other types of housing.

The demand for inexpensive condos is high and the supply remains low.

Back in 2009, we were in a buyers market. In some parts of the country, it is a buyer’s market but here in the metro area, the seller’s market remains strong.

The overall housing supply in St. Paul is currently 2.3 months, which is the same as it was in May of 2018. In May of 2009, it was  12.4 months.

First time homebuyers and their grandparents

townhouse and condo – days on market

It doesn’t matter which indicator I look at, townhouses and condos are in demand in the metro area. Smaller affordable units are in demand for first-time homebuyers and for retirees.

The supply of condos in St. Paul is small but has remained fairly flat for the past couple of years. The number of homes for sale in St. Paul is slightly higher than it was at this time last year but still very low.

If I were a builder I know what I would build . . .

How many bedrooms does a loft have?

A Rossmor Loft – 500 North Robert street. Formerly a shoe factory

The loft is a common housing style in downtown St. Paul but they seem to confuse our MLS. Most lofts have no bedrooms. Most home buyers search for homes based partly on the number of beds and baths they have.

Lofts are flexible spaces and the bedroom is where ever you put the bed. If you put the bed by the window then the bedroom has an egress window.

The bedroom or bedrooms can be anywhere in the loft. Some people build platforms so that they have a kind of the second story for their bed and others build separate rooms and some buy dividers or storage units or curtains.

For some, the flexibility is too much. They reject the idea of living in a space that doesn’t have a defined sleeping space. It does take some imagination and creativity.

Artists lofts are lofts that are used as a space to live and work and usually have good lighting.

Many of the buildings in downtown St. Paul that have lofts in them were originally warehouses or factories. They have huge windows and exposed brick walls and high ceilings. Floors are sealed concrete. Often ductwork is exposed and some of the units have original hardware left over from when they were industrial buildings.

Decorating and living in a loft is about having less stuff and about using creative storage solutions. For example, a bookcase can serve as a room and a place for books. Hooks and shelves can take advantage of high ceilings and create verticle storage.

If you want to live in a loft consider the downtown St. Paul neighborhood. Prices range from just 100K to over a million.

Downtown real estate is slower

When putting a home on the market it is important to know what to expect. Real estate continues to sell briskly and some properties do get multiple offers the first day they are on the market.

Condos in downtown St. Paul do not sell as quickly as other types of real estate. That just means that sellers need to be prepared to have their unit on the market a little longer.

The “little longer” isn’t long at all. There are currently 48 condos on the market downtown and the median days on market is around 33 days. The units that are priced for over half a million sell at a slower rate and they always have.

Downtown St. Paul condo sales

High association dues?


$460 dollars a month for association dues, you have to be kidding!  No, I am not kidding and it looks like a bargain to me, especially in an older building.

I took the dues for a condo in my own neighborhood that is about the same size and age as our home and compared the association dues to our monthly expenses.

The $460 monthly dues cover Heating, hazard insurance, water, sewer, refuse removal, lawn care, snow removal and exterior maintenance.   Our costs for a similar size home are $363 a month for heating, insurance, sewer, water and refuse removal, leaving $97 a month for exterior maintenance, snow removal, and lawn care.

I don’t even have to factor in the cost of lawn care and snow removal to see that the dues are a bargain.  Our exterior maintenance costs spread out over the length of time we have owned our home easily come out to more than $100 dollars a month.

If I factor in the cost of the roof repair we needed, the gutters we had to add to keep the basement dry, the siding we replaced, and the porch we had rebuilt the total monthly exterior maintenance costs for our home are easily more than $100 a month, without including  the cost of plants, landscaping work or the labor costs associated with lawn care and snow removal.  Not to mention the cost of owning and maintaining both a lawn mower and a snow blower.

There is an advantage to paying for exterior maintenance on a monthly basis.  When we need a major repair we need to come up with a major amount of cash all at one time.  Before buying a condo or townhouse, especially a unit in an older building make sure that the association has some reserves so that you don’t have to come up with a large sum of money for repairs.

When buying an older home or any home at all keep in mind that things wear out or even break and budget some reserves for emergency repairs.  Before deciding that association dues are too high compare look at what the dues are paying for.