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Living in St. Paul

St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, is a diverse, dynamic city straddling the Mississippi River. It is, along with Minneapolis, half of the “Twin Cities” metropolitan area. With a young, growing population of about 300,000, The city government has adopted the slogan “The Most Liveable City in America”, and St. Paul is certainly on its way there. The political climate is positive and its economy is strong. The Brookings Institute notes that “The economic profile of the Twin Cities is also healthy, underpinned by high levels of education and labor force participation.” The median per capita income in St. Paul was $26,622 for 2011-15. The median household income for those same years was $48,757. These are both lower than statewide and national figures, but are trending upward.

Safety and protection of property are concerns in any large city. St. Paul ranks slightly above the national average in violent crimes and burglaries, but the numbers tell a story of declining crime rates. Burglaries are down 8.8% from 2014–2015, and down 33% since 2011. National data from the FBI show a murder rate of 4.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, while 2015 statistics from the St. Paul Police Department show a rate of about 5.3 per 100,000 residents. As the economy continues to perform well, it is reasonable to expect the city’s crime statistics to continue to drop and even dip below national averages.

Serious About Education

St. Paul is home to number of colleges and universities, including Concordia University, Hamline University, the University of St. Thomas, and the public University of Minnesota. With 30,500 undergraduates, the school’s Twin Cities campus is spread out between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The city’s K–12 system is innovative and diverse, offering students and families options including charter schools, online learning, school choice, and homeschooling. Students in Minnesota have consistently scored significantly higher than the national average scores on tests of reading, writing, mathematics, and science. St. Paul Public school students have an average score of 18 on the ACT, slightly lower than the national average of 20.8.

Median House Prices

Along with the economy, the housing market in St. Paul is growing steadily. As of July 2015, the median price for traditionally purchased (as opposed to foreclosed or short sale purchases) homes in the Twin Cities was $231,000. This is an increase of almost 3% from the previous year. If we include short sales and foreclosures, the median house price rose 4.7% between July 2014 and July 2015. To look at another snapshot of July 2015, almost 50% of the homes sold in St. Paul were priced between $200,000 and $399,000. That number is declining in the long term, though, as more single family homes are being turned into rentals. This has been a trend since about 2008, meaning fewer single-family homes are on the market to purchase.

Different needs, Different Mortgages

If you are looking to purchase a home in St. Paul, you have a number of mortgage choices. The most common type of mortgage is a fixed-rate loan, usually for a term of 15 or 30 years. This is just what it sounds like; home buyers pay the same fixed interest rate for the life of the loan. If interest rates drop, there is usually an option to refinance to the lower rate. Adjustable rate mortgages (sometimes called “variable rate” or “tracker rate mortgages”) offer a lower interest rate for the first five or ten years of a loan, and then change yearly depending upon national interest rates. These loans usually have a less stringent credit rating requirement, and can work for people who are planning on moving before the loan begins adjusting. Another way to save up front is with an FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan. This federal agency actually insures loans from approved lenders, allowing borrowers more favorable terms (like a lower down payment–as low as 3.5% in some cases). If you are a veteran, service member, or surviving spouse of a veteran, it’s worth looking into VA loans. Some of the loans they guarantee are available without putting any money down, and include refinancing options.