Home values bounce back around metro

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2014 - 10:49 PM

The double-digit jumps, aided by billions in new projects, appear to mark a major turnaround from the housing collapse.

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One of biggest increases in Ramsey County home values came in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood, an area anchored by Payne Avenue but also long known for blight and decay. After years of steep drops and stagnation, property values are booming again. Ramsey County Assessor Stephen Baker called it the “most positive year for residential in eight or nine years.”

Photo: Photos by JIM GEHRZ • jgehrz@startribune.com,

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Home values in the Twin Cities metro area are leaping back to life after years of steep drops and stagnation.

Carver County is seeing its first double-digit jumps in years. In Anoka County, home values are up as much as 20 percent. Ramsey County just had its “most positive year for residential in eight or nine years,” Assessor Stephen Baker said.

And in Hennepin County the headline is a $10 billion gain in value, 10 times as great as the year before and with $2 billion in new construction.

The sharp increases, documented in property tax statements mailed this spring, mark the end of an extraordinary period for home values in the Twin Cities, said Herb Tousley, director of the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas.

“The drops in recent years were so fast, and so far, that most of us in our lifetimes had never seen such a thing,” he said. “Now, though no one likes to pay more taxes, the house is going up in value and there’s a good side to that.”

How and when higher values will translate into bigger tax bills may be the least predictable result of the recovery, experts agree. It depends on a host of forces, some pushing bills higher and others holding them down.

But it stands to reason that a trend already in place — a rising willingness to invest in remodeling and expansion — will strengthen still more.

Savage, for instance, saw a doubling in the value of home additions and alterations in 2013, to $5.2 million, from just $2.6 million in 2009. At the other end of the metro, Coon Rapids saw a near-doubling in one year, to more than $1 million, in the value of new additions to homes.

“Improvements are up,” said Greg Brady, the chief building official in Coon Rapids, “and we think investors are buying fix-ups and selling or renting into an improving market. There’s been virtually no updating in some of the homes of the World War II generation — they look just like when they bought them.”

Effects felt in City Hall

The renewed activity means cities like Apple Valley are rehiring building inspectors after years of layoffs and gaining millions more from building fees.

City halls in growing suburbs, meanwhile, find themselves fully functioning again, in ways not seen for years.

In the worst years of the housing bust, mayors spoke in head-shaking tones of “getting home in daylight” after evening meetings with practically nothing on the agenda.

In 2009 and 2010, Prior Lake canceled more than half of its Planning Commission meetings; there was nothing to plan. Today the vast majority of its meetings are back on the schedule.

The strongest surges are happening in the cities that were hit hardest, Anoka County Assessor Michael Sutherland said. In his county, that means cities like Anoka and Columbia Heights.

Ramsey County saw “dramatic increases” in suburban Maplewood and Shoreview and in the St. Paul neighborhoods of Como and Payne-Phalen.

The latter has long been known for blight and decay, but prospective buyer Peter Hansen, a former Duluthian touring a home the other day that looks out across a vast lawn to Lake Phalen, said he senses a comeback.

“I like Payne Avenue,” he said. “It feels like a real city, with some real history.”

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  • Peter Hansen, looking over a home for sale near Lake Phalen with a vast lawn, represents those drawn to the area and contributing to its dramatic increase in home values. “It feels like a real city, with some real history,” said Hansen, a former Duluth resident.

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