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The Year In Weird and/or Expensive Minnesota Real Estate: A Timeline

Mountaintop ghost towns. Affordable hobbit compounds. Homes beneath giant grain elevators. We saw it all in 2022, folks.

Earlier today, a reader asked via Twitter: “Does anyone know why local media (@StarTribune, @RacketMN, City Pages, etc.) are so fascinated with writing about super expensive homes for sale? Is it just a MN tradition?”

Short answer: Glitzy real estate stories generate a ton of reader interest. Seven of the 20 most-read Racket stories over the past 12 months have come via our Wanna Buy series. Demand is the driver, and it’s not at all isolated to Minnesota—just look at Zillow Gone Wild, Curbed, Cheap Old Houses, etc. etc. etc.

For any journalist with a shred of class consciousness, the luxe homes beat presents the most glaring and gaudy signifiers of income inequality. You’d be unsurprised to learn that, when snooping/reporting on the owners of $1M+ Twin Cities homes, the term “trust” often appears in the ownership field on county records. In most cases, that strata of wealth is not earned; it’s hoarded over generations of syphoning from actual laborers. But you’re an adult. You’ve read books. This shouldn’t be blowing your mind. To avoid falling into a gawking or, worse yet, reverential rut, we pepper our high-end real estate coverage with terms like “conscience laundering” and observations on Target CEO Brian Cornell’s obscene salary. We may still be doing the devil’s bidding, but hey, we’re self-aware about it.

Thankfully, we’ve found that readers gravitate toward properties along all levels of the economic ladder. Tiny houses are a reliable hit. Bizarre geographic placement—like here and here—has been a proven winner. This feature about a tiny Minnesota town banding together to save its abandoned schoolhouse through Airbnb remains the fifth most-read in our website’s history. It’s heartening to know that an old building with a good story can rack up similar clicks to the cheap heat of a staggering price tag.

That’s a longwinded, throat-clearing, navel-gazing way of saying: Welcome to this year-end recap of Racket’s real estate coverage. Below, I’ll offer commentary and occasional behind-the-scenes insight on each story. Thanks for reading.

January 6: Wanna Buy a 440-Square-Foot, 99-Year-Old Tiny Home in South Minneapolis?

“It’s pretty darn tiny, but it’s so cute–it’s like a dollhouse,” listing agent Niki Moeller told me of the cottage cutie at 4634 Bloomington Ave. Buyers apparently agreed—the place got snapped up for $180,000. Hopefully this delightful lil story erased all bad memories associated with Jan. 6.

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January 10: A Tiny MN Town Bought its Old School for $1 and Turned it Into an Airbnb

The northwestern Minnesota town of Middle River, population 304, happens to be our state’s goose capital. That’s why the newspaper is called The Honker, and it was the thrill of my lifetime to have this story reprinted in that very paper:

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January 24: Wanna Buy a Mountaintop Ghost Town on the North Shore?

I called current owner Patrick Remer a couple weeks back, trying to make good on his offer to let me explore the Cold War-era Air Force base located atop Eagle Mountain. He said the North Shore property had recently been targeted by vandals, and that cops would almost certainly hassle me. This site, and its history of airmen, isolation, and pollution, continues to fascinate me.

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February 8: Wanna Buy a Private Island Mansion with a Complimentary Hovercraft?

If this 9,414-square-foot mansion were located on Lake Minnetonka, its price would certainly soar over $10 million. Instead, it’s located in White Bear Township and was listed for $6.6 million, which included the aforementioned hovercraft. The island retreat isn’t flying off the market; it’s still available for $6 million today.

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February 11: Wanna Buy Mike Zimmer’s Massive Inver Grove Heights Home?

A theme on this list (and, really, throughout my career) is competing outlets seizing on scoops like this one days or even weeks after I break ’em. Sometimes you’ll get the ol’ courtesy H/T, more often you won’t. But am I bitter about it? Impossible to tell. Anyway, Zim’s skipped town after being fired from the Vikes. Subsequent headlines have involved the locker room’s apparent distaste for him and, tragically, the death of his son. Zimmer just came aboard new head coach Deion Sanders’s staff at Colorado. His massive old house? It’s tasteful yet boring.

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February 21: Wanna Buy Ex-Vikings GM Rick Spielman’s House?

If there’s a theme to this blurb, the last one, and the one that’ll follow? “Ousted sports dudes unloading their Minnesota abodes.” The former Vikes GM sold the most modest example, a 5,622-square-foot Eden Prairie home he listed for $975,00.

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March 17: Wanna Buy Ex-Wolves GM Gersson Rosas’s Award-Winning Bde Maka Ska Home?

Shoutout to Rosas for two things: drafting Anthony Edwards and living in Minneapolis proper. Say what you will of his scandal-plagued exit from the Timberwolves, the ex-GM never mortgaged the franchise’s future for Rudy Gobert, losing basketball, and joyless play, the likes of which we’re currently enjoying. His newish construction house at 3817 Sheridan Ave. S. has surplus swag, and it sold for $2.4 million—way down from the $4 million asking price.

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March 22: Wanna Buy Randy Moss’s Enormous Old Medina Home?

There’s a lot of stuff in this 14,680-square-foot Medina estate that’s listed for $2.3 million: “Enjoy stunning views with an indoor professional basketball court, an indoor pool, workout gym, sauna, tennis court, jungle gym, virtual golf, movie theater, dog kennel with heated floors and independent dog walk,” rattles off the property listing. Whew! There also appears to be a jumbo built-in fish tank near the basement bar area, while the vaulted pool room provides yet another bar. A stylized “M,” presumably for “Moss,” is inlaid at the center of the hoops court. Built in 1986, the decade-specific home sits on a 6.3-acre lot which must’ve been ideal for Moss, a famously private superstar athlete who once lived among retirees in Boca Raton, Florida.

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April 4: They Bought an Abandoned Minnesota Schoolhouse. Now They’re Restoring Its Art-Deco Glory.

By the time Cheap Old Houses posted about the abandoned schoolhouse in Norcross, Minnesota, a couple from Ramsey was already 48 hours away from closing on it. The mega-popular Instagram account celebrates the preservation of old structures, and over 50,000 fans smashed fav on photos of the dilapidated art-deco beauty located 40 minutes south of Fergus Falls. “We looked at the project and fell in love almost instantly,” says Kaycee Kramer, who scored the WPA-built building for $35,000. She told me it’ll need about $300,000 in repairs, and that she’ll live there with her husband, Mark Giampa, while the place slowly becomes suitable for vacation rentals.

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April 19: Wanna Buy the Ol’ Electric Fetus Duluth Building?

From 1987 through last fall, 12 E. Superior St. belonged to the Duluth’s Electric Fetus. Its closure was “a total loss to the community,” local radio DJ Walter “Walt Dizzo” Raschick told the Duluth News Tribune. The 125-year-old structure is still available for $1.5 million, though its record-shop relics were auctioned off long ago.

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May 3: Wanna Buy Bob Pohlad’s Condo, the Most Expensive Home for Sale in Minneapolis?

We passed no small amount of judgement on Bob, who elected for a life in Pepsi boardrooms while his trust-fund brothers pursued fun careers in Hollywood and pro baseball. But it’s hard to argue with the truly special 3,000-square-foot private terrace on his condo, which sold at asking price for $7 million. Take note of the outdoor shower; it must be a singular feeling to bathe al fresco, high above the hoi polloi scuttling across the Stone Arch Bridge.

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May 12: Wanna Buy a Dayton Heir’s Gallery-Like Lake of the Isles House?

When Judy Dayton died last August at 94, she was remembered as an “arts patron and grande dame of philanthropy.” Wife to Kenneth and aunt to Mark, Judy served on the Walker Art Center board for 52 years, becoming the Minneapolis institution’s first woman president in the ’70s. Built in 1997 by Minneapolis-based firm VJAA, her home at 1719 W. Franklin Ave. racked up awards for its sleek, gallery-like design that blends seamlessly with the grounds overlooking Lake of the Isles. It sold for $5.1 million, just a smidge over asking price.

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June 3: Wanna Buy the CEO of Target’s Downtown Minneapolis Condo?

Prepped with banger questions like “How much of the furniture was sourced from Target?” we asked listing agent Julie Regan to chat about the property. We’re also curious how many KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell meals went down at that gourmet kitchen, considering Target CEO Brian Cornell acts as a non-exec chairman at Yum! Brands Inc., the world’s third-largest fast food company. Didn’t hear back. His lifeless condo above Hotel Ivy sold a hair under its $1.57 asking price without the Racket bump, however.

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June 7: Wanna Buy the Iconic Snack Shack on 38th Street?

In addition to the scoop on its being for sale, we also were the first to report on its future: a Vietnamese spot we’re really, really excited for.

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July 1: Wanna Buy Betty Danger’s? (Ferris Wheel Included.)

While I’m in salesman mode here, I’ll mention that our Betty Danger’s coverage was the only to mention the local service industry’s contempt for its owner, local restaurant tycoon Leslie Bock. This one’s still available at a slight discount; the price has come down from $4.2 million to $3.85 million.

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July 6: Wanna Buy the St. Cloud Barbie House?

A fun addition to the Racket Extended Universe has been local Twitter personality/former St. Cloud resident Stu Neuman, the comms guy at Surly Brewing Co. For every St. Cloud story, I’ve reached out to Stu for incisive commentary like: “Southeast St. Cloud is right across the river from SCSU; the homes on and near the river are nice as hell, a little funky, and mostly all are vintage, only a couple McMansion-y behemoths. Further east is the St. Cloud Penitentiary, Highway 10, and the Culver’s where the New York Times interviewed that one racist.” You come away feeling like a dang local!

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July 14: Wanna Buy a Geodesic Dome Home On Lake Superior?

Dream of saying “dome, sweet dome” each and every time, without fail, as you enter your North Shore property, a bit that will surely delight and never annoy your loved ones? This $797,900 flipped option in Schroeder, Minnesota, presented such an opportunity, but it was quickly snagged over asking for $850,000. Click away to read more about the neat history of dome homes.

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July 14: Wanna Buy the EagleBOLTbar?

Open since 1998, this Downtown East (we will not bow to the city’s “East Town” PR whims) bar/restaurant has been a fixture of the Minneapolis gay community ever since. It’s still available at its original $2.8 million asking price. Fun EagleBolt fact: Remember when this happened?

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August 1: Wanna Buy a Minneapolis Home Directly Next to a 92-Year-Old Grain Elevator?

“It’s mostly… ‘What is that?’” listing agent Victoria Edick told me with a chuckle while describing potential buyers encountering the towering grain silo. “I had one person say that it’d be nice to play racquetball against it. I said ‘For sure! From the kitchen, from the upstairs…’” This story was so fun to report, but the modest home was quickly pulled from the market.

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August 8: Wanna Buy a Legit 1940s Castle on the St. Croix River?

“It was built for the MacMillan family, who were cousins of the Cargills,” owner John Norusis told me in 2019. “It’s a really unique, special place; it’s literally something out of a fairy tale.” Read the story for much, much more on Norusis’s non-fairy tale battles with city hall over the vacation-rental status of his riverside castle.

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August 18: Wanna Buy the Goth Castle?

Owner Brooke Fleetwood told me she’d be selling her Goth Castle during an interview for a much longer, stranger feature. I quickly flipped those quotes into a Wanna Buy, though apparently nobody did: The place is still available for $1 million.

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August 24: Wanna Buy a Floating Duluth House with an Underground Pool?

“Without hesitating I’d say it’s the most interesting house I’ve ever been involved with listing,” agent Jessica Buelow told me. “It is the epitome of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—where else are you gonna buy a house on a bridge? Or have the chance to?” You’ve still got that chance: The $750,000 price has been slashed to $675,000.

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August 29: Wanna Buy P.J. Fleck’s ‘Row the Boat’-Themed Lake Minnetonka Mansion?

P.J. Fleck’s commitment to his relentlessly peppy, sloganeering bit extends to his home décor picks. The choices—framed oars, hanging oars, oar throw pillows, RTB signage/flags—are screamingly on-brand for the current owner. “Oh yeah, there’s a lot of oars in the house,” listing agent Heather Hansen acknowledged to me with a weary chuckle. Fleck’s lake home in Mound flew off the market at just under the $2.5 million asking price. Having just inked a seven-year, $42 million contract, the only sorta good coach will be able to add to his real estate portfolio.

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September 16: Wanna Buy This Affordable Hobbit House Just 30 Minutes East of St. Paul?

The former owner sent me the following sweet note: “I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed the article and the research and context you provided. We did get an overwhelming response for showings. Thanks for the feature!” Aww. His whimsical property sold almost instantly for $356,000, about $40K over asking.

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September 22: Wanna Buy Grandy, MN’s Cherished Chicken Shack? (‘Secret Recipe’ Included.)

I’ve eaten Brass Rail chicken, as you’ll learn during an extended anecdote about a bachelor party I opted to include in this blog. Is it worthwhile? You decide!

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September 29: Wanna Buy Psycho Suzi’s?

Interesting tidbit: This old Strib piece states that while the building exudes churchy vibes, there’s no evidence it ever operated as a place of worship. “I will actually have natural features to work with this time vs. creating a tropical paradise out of thin air and magic,” owner Leslie Bock told the Strib as she prepared to remodel the ol’ the Gabby’s Night Club. The jewel of her local restaurant empire can still be yours for $6 million.

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October 3: What It’s Like Selling the Tiniest, Cheapest House In Minneapolis

In an era of unaffordability, it’s refreshing to present these types of stories. This itty-bitty North Side home is still on the market for $79,000.

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October 7: Wanna Buy MN Wild Star Matt Dumba’s Condo Atop a Luxury Hotel?

Listing agent Reide Housley Powers neglected to spill the beans to us on the real reason Dumba was selling: He wants more space for his dogs, cute intel Powers imparted to our pals at Bring Me the News.

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October 12: Wanna Buy a Prepper-Friendly Hobbit Compound Near Lake Superior?

Wow, has it really been two months since we’ve hit the ol’ Wanna Buy beat? Real estate listings slow the hell down around Thanksgiving, and this year that slowdown has been compounded by spiking interest rates. In any case, I very much wanted to buy this Wisconsin property, where I could have slowly lost my mind amid the woodsy, prepper-ish amenities.

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