5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home in Minneapolis

Minneapolis is a beautiful city, but the housing stock here is aging and there are some important mistakes to avoid when shopping for a home here.

Most homes within the city limits were built between 1900 and 1960. That makes them between 60 and 120 years old. There can be issues with wiring, foundations, heating systems, asbestos, and if you have more than one or two vehicles, well, stick around until the end of the video because we need to talk about winter parking.

Knob and Tube Wiring

Let’s start with wiring. Many homes here still have the original knob and tube electric wiring. Unlike modern wiring, knob and tube wiring does not have ground wire, making it unable to accommodate three-pronged plugs. And older homes here often have few electrical outlets so plugging in all of our modern gadgets quickly becomes a risky tangle of extension cords and power strips. If you plan to make any updates to the electrical system in your new home, city code may require you to rewire your entire home. That is a big expense.

Cracked or Bowed Foundation Walls

cracked and bowed foundation wall

Most homes in Minneapolis have full basements and the foundations are typically concrete. While sturdy and long-lasting, Minnesota’s cold winters and spring freeze-thaw cycles do take their toll. Small foundation cracks are pretty normal and not much of a concern, but it’s important look closely at the basement walls and floors for larger cracks, areas where water has infiltrated, and bowing foundation walls.

Lack of Air Conditioning

Many of the older homes are heated by boiler furnaces that run hot water through radiators. Hot water heat is efficient, but it has one important downside, there is no ductwork as you have with forced air heat. That makes it a challenge to add air conditioning to your home.


Another feature of older hot water systems is that the piping in the basement tends to be wrapped in asbestos. As long as the asbestos wrap remains in good condition, it’s not an issue. Over time, however, it can start to crack and crumble, and then it becomes a health hazard. Removing the asbestos requires abatement by certified, licensed contractor.

Winter Parking

If you’re buying your home in the spring, or summer, winter may be the farthest thing from your mind, but you shouldn’t overlook winter’s complications. Many homes here were built when families had at most one car, and some homes one-car garages, and some none. If you’re planning on street parking for one or more of your vehicles, you need to know about Minneapolis’ many winter parking rules so your vehicle doesn’t get ticketed, towed, or buried in snow by a passing plow. 

All of these issues can be address with some thoughtful planning, but it is important to know what you’re getting into when buying an older home in Minneapolis. I hope this video has been helpful for you. I’d love to hear your suggestions and your questions, so feel free to leave me a like or comment below.

If you’re looking for more information about living in Minneapolis, or elsewhere the Twin Cities, check out my video series on living in the Twin Cities and great neighborhoods for homebuyers in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

J Trout Lowen is a Minneapolis Realtor® and an expert at helping buyers and sellers navigate the Twin Cities housing market.

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