The quest of finding an apartment in Minneapolis
November 13, 2014 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have tips on finding apartments beyond Padmapper? When is a good time to actually look/sign leases for apartments for next August? Apartments seem to go extremely fast here and I'm afraid I'm missing out on something by not signing a lease right now. Also, are there any neighborhoods you would recommend for a graduate student at the U?

Hey y'all!

I have moved up to Minneapolis about 2 months ago from a small, college town in Alabama. (It's so cold up here! And it's not even supposed to be that bad! *sob*) So, I'm new to this big city leasing and what not.

Anyways, I'm up here for graduate school and signed a quick lease with other grad students in a large, new complex in Dinkytown because I couldn't really look at apartments in person. The apartment is great! But it is extremely loud on weekends with the youths partying and also our walls are paper thin for some reason.

I'm looking for 1 bedrooms or studios under $800 (Is that even feasible? Are most apartments crappy under that price?) and hopefully around the university, but not around the university, if that makes sense? Somewhere far enough that I'm not always around undergraduates, but close enough for a short commute (~30 minutes maybe?) And if at all possible, has things around it like restaurants, grocers, a bar, etc? (But it's okay if it doesn't.)

Also, I notice that apartments I look at either are extremely nice and expensive or really old and still sort of expensive. Is this normal?

Also also, am I looking way too early for an apartment? My current lease ends August 2015. But I came here months ago looking for apartments in June looking for apartments in August and EVERYTHING seemed to be taken already. It was scary.

Thank you for your help!
posted by buttonedup to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're looking too early. If someone has a lease expiring at the end of July, the landlord won't know if they're going to renew it until, like, the end of May. And if a place is available now, the landlord will want to rent it out now.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:07 PM on November 13, 2014

When I moved here in winter and needed an apartment ASAP I relied on Craigslist and signs on buildings/in yards. I discovered that a lot of buildings have signs all the time whether or not there's a free unit in that building, because they're owned by companies that have many buildings and have something available somewhere (sometimes the landlord/realtor would tell me the house I'd seen was unavailable, but show me a different place they had) so it's worth keeping track of the contact information for buildings in neighborhoods that interest you.

Where you are now is really governed by the college calendar, so not being able to find anything in summer there is not a surprise. Take this time that you have as an opportunity to explore neighborhoods, working your way out from campus, and get a feel for the places you'd want to really live. Take down numbers on multi-unit buildings even if you don't see a for rent sign, just in case there's something available when you're ready. Watch Craigslist and Padmapper just to get a feel for what available places in different neighborhoods look like and what they cost, and go on excursions this winter to see what those neighborhoods feel like to you when you walk around them.
posted by padraigin at 7:37 PM on November 13, 2014

Yes, too early. The selection right now is lousy and it won't improve until about May. Definitely take your time.

I'm sitting in a one-bedroom right now that I pay well under 800 for, and I would say it is not crappy, though it isn't new construction. I've always used Craigslist and have had good results. You might try looking in Seward, Whittier, Stevens Square, and maybe parts of Loring Park.
posted by clavicle at 8:16 PM on November 13, 2014

I was in grad school at the U and lived in two areas: Loring Park and Longfellow. Both of them SUCKED for commuting to the U even though they're not that far geographically. All the buses take you from those places to downtown, and then you're stuck for another 20-30 minutes to get to the U.

My advice: Either live close to the U, or on an express bus line to the U. The express buses go to Uptown, Franklin & Hennepin, Cedar Avenue, and a couple other places. Also there is a U-operated shuttle bus to the St. Paul campus. The first two neighborhoods are expensive, but Cedar Ave and the St. Paul campus area should be cheap.

Remember that many, many apartments are not advertised on Craigslist. Phone calls and email are still the best way to find places.

$800 for a studio should be tough but doable.
posted by miyabo at 8:19 PM on November 13, 2014

Try Prospect Park and Seward neighborhoods. Close to the u but not too close. Prospect Park is on the Green line and has 2 stops (west gate and prospect park) in addition to decent bus service.
Winter housing stock is low but landlords want the space filled so you have that advantage. Another rental cycle, besides standard undergrad/grad, is the medical school so check against that cycle, too.

Try Craigslist to search. Another option for temp digs is If you are in a lease, just take time to explore and acclimate.
posted by jadepearl at 3:47 AM on November 14, 2014

You're way too early. The only things renting now for August are going to be overpriced, aimed at students and in Dinkytown--in other words, much like the place you're living now. Start looking right at the start of June, when people moving August 1st will have had to give notice and landlords will actually know what's available. (This assumes you're getting out of Dinkytown.)

I just left Minneapolis after six years of being a grad student living in Stevens Square. Rents have been going up quite a bit the last two years (like $30-$40/month after going up a total of $5/month in the first five years I lived there--thank you recession), but rent for my truly enormous one bedroom would have gone up to $740/month this year had I not moved to Texas. I checked for someone else recently and my landlord's website says their small one bedrooms start at less than $650. (Me-mail me if you want the name of my old landlord. They were really great.)

Stevens Square is a straight shot on the 2 to campus and takes somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the time of day and how long you spend waiting for the bus. It's about 20 minutes on a bike. The northern parts of Whittier are on the 2 as well. The grocery situation is a bit rough--you can walk to the Wedge co-op (which is pricey) or take the bus to the Uptown Cub (which was a Rainbow until recently, and over-priced and crappy), the Cub way south on Nicollet (kind of far, but fine) or Kowalskis (pricey). You can also walk to the Target downtown. The same applies to northern portions of Whitter east of Nicollet or Blaisdell or so. The parts of Whittier that are closer to Lyndale now count as Uptown for purposes of this discussion (since they'll get called Uptown on Craiglist). Due to the proximity to downtown, it has to be only a matter of time before Stevens Square becomes fashionable and rents shoot up, but it hasn't happened yet.

Seward is another good option. Campus is walkable (it's probably half an hour to the East Bank and 15-20 minutes to the West Bank) or the 2 goes to campus (as does the 7 and the 22, but only to the edge of the West Bank). I'm not so intimately familiar with rents there, but it should be in your budget.

There ought to be apartments along the express bus lines in Uptown (113 and 114) in your budget, though you'll be trading space for the express bus. (If you work in a lab and thus are on campus all the time, this may be less appealing because the express bus schedules are pretty limited in the summer and in breaks.) I personally dislike Uptown, but there are certainly more businesses around.

Elliot Park sometimes looks like a good option on paper, but it's bizarrely inconvenient when it comes to buses to campus. (You'd either have to walk down to Franklin and get the 2 or up to the light rail (I can't remember if the 16 stopped running to downtown when the light rail opened, but the stop's at the Metrodome station anyway).)

Also, I notice that apartments I look at either are extremely nice and expensive or really old and still sort of expensive. Is this normal?

Kind of? I think it's more extreme in Dinkytown--all those extremely nice and expensive apartments were built in the last five years and before that I think Dinkytown was the land of crappy, expensive apartments. However, there are a lot of 100 year old apartment buildings around. Don't expect central air (or dishwashers for the most part). The heating also tends to be a bit wonky and it'll either be 90 degrees (official landlord-sanctioned solution: open a window) or bloody freezing. In theory, you can control it a bit with the radiators, but in reality, you can't. (On the plus side, I think this is because the same boiler heats the hot water for the building and so needs to hit a minimum temperature, so at least you never run out of hot water.) On the other hand, my hundred year old walls kept out sound much better than my current walls (I'm guessing this building's from the 70s or 80s. Like all of Stevens Square, my old apartment was old and you could tell (not least because you could tell where electricity had been added and there was still some ancient telephone cord tacked to the baseboard). My current apartment looks nicer, but is altogether crappier--everything's made out of the cheapest possible materials.)
posted by hoyland at 5:09 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

And yes, the rental market is hard. Even with big new apartment complexes going up everywhere, excess capacity is low -- on top of which, many of those new places are expensive.

Are you driving? If so, a 30 minute commute will get you a ways outside of Dinkytown, especially if you don't need to drive during rush hour, which may be possible as a grad student.

Whittier might work. Maybe Uptown, although that will be a little more expensive. Maybe further out into Northeast. St. Paul, I think, is also less expensive than Minneapolis and could have some good options.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:12 AM on November 14, 2014

Check out the area north of the Quarry shopping center, between Johnson and Stinson. There are a bunch of apartment buildings there and it is close to campus, but not too close. It is a nice neighborhood but not overpriced. Many buildings have parking lots, so street parking isn't as crazy as it gets in denser areas. Pricewise, I paid just under $800 for a two bedroom, but that was 2008.
posted by soelo at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2014

« Older House Help - unique situation, trying to keep...   |   Can I drink it: Prohibition edition Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.