Rochester topped Livability.com's 2017 ranking of the Top 100 Best Places to Live in America, and housing options are a big contributor to that lofty rating. For the first half of 2016, home sales prices were up 7 percent compared to the same period in 2015, but the median remains relatively affordable at $178,500.
In addition, a 2015 survey by the Rochester-based Southeast Minnesota Association of Realtors pointed out that 90 percent of local residents enjoy their quality of life.
“The survey results were clear: residents like where they live, enjoy the quality of life in Rochester and believe growth is happening at about the right pace,” says Kisti Skaar, SEMAR president.
While home sales continue at a good pace in all price ranges, Realtors say Rochester has been experiencing a tight apartment market – but that is changing. Officials say apartments are popular these days, especially with millennials being hired by area companies.
“With top employers predicting more and more growth in Rochester, it has prompted developers like Continental Properties to enter the Rochester apartment market,” says Tina Schmitt, a realtor with Continental Properties and the property manager for Springs at South Broadway, a new gated luxury apartment community a few minutes from the Mayo Clinic.
Springs at South Broadway opened in June 2016, offering 228 new apartments with high-end amenities. Several other apartment communities also opened in Rochester during 2016, including 501 on First, Eastwood Ridge, Kutzky Park Place, Nue 52 and The Boulders.
“Rochester’s expansion in the medical field and its Destination Medical Center tag line has attracted long-term residents seeking longer lease agreements, plus short-term medical patients wanting something more than an extended stay hotel,” Schmitt says. “Finding an apartment community or a private owner who offers furnished living arrangements at a reasonable monthly rate is becoming a common practice.”
Meanwhile, city officials also want to build more affordable apartment developments, the specialty of Weis Builders.
“Over the years, our company has completed seven affordable projects around Rochester totaling 350-400 units, and in mid-2016 we got the financing for First Avenue Flats, a 68-unit, four-story building that will be our first-ever project downtown,” says company owner Joe Weis. “The rents will be about $800 for a one-bedroom apartment and $900 for two bedrooms, compared to $950 and $1,300 for similar apartments elsewhere around Rochester.”
Goodbye Hawaii, Hello Rochester
A longtime resident of Hawaii, Traci Downs was diagnosed in 2003 with a rare autoimmune liver disease and read about clinical treatment trials taking place at the Mayo Clinic. Beginning in 2003, she flew from Hawaii to Rochester for treatments two or three times annually for about 10 years, but never really noticed what the city had to offer residents.
“Then in 2012, I got really ill and needed a liver transplant, so my husband, Hunter, and I came to Rochester for six months and lived in the community,” Downs says. “From that point forward, we fell in love with the city.”
Downs didn’t get a transplant because her health stabilized, but the couple enjoyed Rochester so much that they sold their house in Honolulu and moved here.
“I like the four seasons of Rochester and the focus on technology, especially since we own a software R&D company called Area 10 Labs that we have since relocated to Rochester,” she says. “I also partner in a downtown coffee shop called Café Steam, plus Hunter and I purchased an old Conley-Maass historic building downtown on 14th Street and are restoring it into office spaces for tech and biotech companies. I really enjoy Rochester and completely understand why this city’s popularity continues to grow.”