In most cases, there is no single document that will provide you with a complete history of your home, property, or neighborhood. Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library has many resources to help you find information.
Watch The Story of a House to discover how you can uncover your home’s history.
Original building permit index cards
Learn about the construction and improvement history of your house or building.
Search by street name in the Minneapolis Building Permit Index Card Collection (e.g. 34th Ave. S. or
Columbia Blvd. or 50th St. E.)
Contact Special Collections for assistance with your search.
Clippings may be available for a particular address, homeowner, architect or Minneapolis neighborhood. Special Collections houses a significant collection of Minneapolis neighborhood newspapers.
Thousands of photographs that date back to the 19th century are available in Special Collections.
Minneapolis City Directory (1859 to 2003)
Lists the previous occupants of a house and often their occupation(s). Beginning in 1930, use the reverse directory to look up an address and find the names of the people living there.
Dual City Blue Book (1885 to 1924)
The private directory lists the names of the city’s wealthier resident alphabetically and by address.
House Plan Books
View the library’s digitized house plan books online or view these plus more in print in Special Collections. Local architect publications like these, which primarily date from the early 20th century, may contain similar or identical floor plans to your house, which could indicate that the house was built from stock plans.
View the library’s digitized plat books (1885 – 1887 – 1898 – 1914 – 1940) online or view paper copies of these plus additional plat books. The University of Minnesota also offers an online collection of local plat books.
Historic maps and atlases (the 1850s to 1920s)
iew property boundaries, roads, railroad tracks, streetcar lines, the names of businesses, and geographical attributes. The oldest maps of the city are available via Minnesota Reflections.
Sanborn Fire Insurance map database (the 1850s to 1920s)
View property boundaries, roads, railroad tracks, streetcar lines, the names of businesses, and geographical attributes. Print volumes of a 1912 Sanborn map with changes through 1930 are available in Special Collections.
Lot surveys on microfilm (1916 to 1965)
Surveys contain original footprint, dimensions, and outbuildings of a property or building. Organized by building permit number (B122143 to B394097), not by address. You must obtain your home’s original building permit number from the building permit index card or building permit to access your lot survey. Search building permits index cards online.
Lot Surveys are expensive to have done and we strongly encourage homeowners to keep them in a safe place with their building abstract. Anytime there are large renovations/changes done to a house or lot, a lot survey is required. Lot surveys are kept at Development Review in the Public Service Building (Room 300, 250 South 4th St.) for two years. After two years if the building owner did not keep a previous lot survey a new survey has to be made.
Rather than demand old homes meet modern property maintenance standards, dozens of technical changes recently adopted by the St. Paul City Council indicate city inspectors must abide by statewide building and fire codes. And those codes for existing homes and rental properties defer to building standards in place at the time of construction — even if that construction is a century old.
For homeowners looking to pass inspection before renting out a house or selling a property, the code changes could add up to hefty savings — in both costs and time.
“I think it’s good for the public to know that with aging housing stock, the quality doesn’t have to always be brought up to current code, which can be virtually impossible or extremely cost prohibitive,” said Mark Lentsch, a St. Paul-based Realtor.
The council decision represents a bit of a win for the Builders Association of Minnesota, which several years ago took a legal case against the city over egress windows as far as the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
“A home that was built in 1974 must meet the 1974 code,” said Remi Stone, an executive vice president with the association. “A local government cannot force a homeowner to bring it up to a code that didn’t exist at the time the home was built. That’s not the way it works.”
The change is potentially sweet relief for landlords who have long complained that city inspectors are overzealous or inconsistent in imposing inspection standards.
For instance, the code amendments adopted by the city council Wednesday allow pre-existing driveways to be maintained as currently constructed — including gravel — unless they are being expanded.
Previously, “the driveways were required to be hard or impervious — blacktop, asphalt or concrete, take your pick,” said Robert Humphrey, a spokesman for the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections. “Now you can maintain them as-is as long as they’re not being expanded.”
That’s a bit of a free pass for property owners, but it’s moot when it comes to new construction, such as home additions and alterations, Humphrey said.
WHEN IMPROVEMENTS ARE REQUIRED
“Everything will go back to the historical reference to when that house was built, unless you alter that property,” Humphrey said. “If you alter the property, you have to bring it up to the current code.”
Stone, of the builders association, said that in practice, city inspectors have been adjusting inspections accordingly since her organization fought the city in court five years ago. The council vote makes it official.
“My experience with their department has been that they’re fairly consistent with enforcing the state building code, and the code that was in place … when the building was constructed,” she said. “The city is just making sure that what’s on their books is technically consistent with the law of the state.”
The changes were also applauded by the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors, which noted that easing regulations can improve affordability.
“Homebuyers, sellers and current residents will benefit from a more straightforward application of property maintenance standards that everybody can easily understand,” the group’s president Tina Angell said in a prepared statement.
TWO LEGAL CHALLENGES
A Nov. 18 memo from DSI director Ricardo Cervantes to city council members indicated St. Paul’s written property maintenance code needed to be updated. The move was largely in reaction to two legal challenges: a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling from 2008 (City of Morris v. Sax Investments Inc.) and the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling from 2012 (Builders Association of Minnesota v. City of St. Paul).
“These rulings have determined that municipalities cannot require existing buildings to meet local property maintenance code standards that were not in effect at the time the property was originally constructed,” Travis Bistodeau, a deputy director for the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections, told council members on Wednesday.
“The city of St. Paul is not alone in this challenge,” Bistodeau said. “Many municipalities across the state who had previously developed their own property maintenance standards are adjusting their ordinances and practices, as well.”
Council President Russ Stark later said that given St. Paul’s relatively older housing stock, the city’s property maintenance codes are stricter than the state’s for a good reason: public safety. But discussions with Cervantes and the city attorney’s office left little doubt about the course of action.
“We had little choice but to comply,” Stark said.
THE CASE OF THE EGRESS WINDOW
For St. Paul, the latest changes started, arguably, with old windows.
In 2012, the Minnesota Court of Appeals effectively ruled against St. Paul’s insistence on having homeowners bring even century-old window openings up to modern size and safety standards. The Builders Association of Minnesota filed suit.
The Builders Association of Minnesota argued that the policy, which was intended to make it easier to flee a house during a fire or another emergency, actually made properties less safe. The policy effectively forced landlords to cut into concrete or stucco walls to make window openings larger in their rental properties.
As a result of the policy, rather than replace windows that had been painted shut, many homeowners simply decided to skip costly replacements and leave the old windows as-is.
The three-judge court of appeals panel found that the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry adopted the international building code, residential code and fire code with the expectation of creating uniformity in statewide standards. The appellate opinion frowned on the city’s decision to go beyond the state code, noting that the state opted for uniformity for a reason.
The Minnesota Supreme Court came to a similar conclusion in 2008 when the city of Morris tangled with a residential landlord over whether city or state codes should govern bathroom ventilation, egress window covers and ground fault interrupters in his rental property.
St. Paul officials said the code amendments will help clear up confusion for the public.
“It’s harder to enforce, but we’re happy to abide by the changes, and we have been,” said Humphrey, the DSI spokesman.
Minneapolis can be a very noisy place. Between the sounds of car horns, sirens, truck traffic, and people yelling, background-noise levels can regularly reach 70 decibels—about as loud as the drone of a vacuum cleaner at close range. That much noise pollution isn’t just annoying; it can heighten stress, disrupt your sleep, and even lead to heart disease. Researchers at the University of Michigan estimate that about one-third of Americans are exposed to harmful noise, and might be at risk of noise-related health problems.
Www.howloud.com is a website that uses empirical data to determine a “Soundscore” for an address. Instead of driving to a property and camping out to determine noise levels (or worse, moving in and realizing the noise levels are higher than you can tolerate), you can now type any address into the search bar and receive a “Soundscore”.
A Soundscore™ rating is determined by three noise factors: vehicle traffic, air traffic and local sources (restaurants, schools, stores, etc.). For the most important component — vehicle traffic — the site applies the Federal Highway Authority’s Traffic Noise Model. This model is mandated in the State of California, but HowLoud is the first to use it on a massive scale and make the results available to consumers and other businesses.
Does noise matter?
Noise is the most common complaint to most cities’ complaint call lines. The New York City call line gets a noise complaint every four minutes. The Los Angeles Helicopter noise complaint system registers over7,000 complaints a month. Recent studies have also shown noise to be the biggest complaint about hotelsand restaurants i.
What is a Soundscore™ rating?
A Soundscore™ rating is a number between 0 and 100 that says how loud (low score) or quiet (high score) a location is. HowLoud licenses Soundscore™ to real estate listings for them to provide Soundscore™ to users directly on their sites.
How is a Soundscore™ rating computed?
A Soundscore™ rating is determined by three noise factors: vehicle traffic, air traffic and local sources (restaurants, schools, stores, etc.). For the most important component — vehicle traffic — we apply the Federal Highway Authority’s Traffic Noise Model . This model is mandated in the State of California, but HowLoud is the first to use it on a massive scale and make the results available to consumers and other businesses. Here is San Francisco’s commissioned noise map. This map is very useful, but such maps are currently only available in some cities.
Is a Soundscore™ rating objective?
Yes. Our methods treat every location the same, and the model is the required by the Federal Highway Authority for all municipal noise studies. Our methods for treating airport noise and local sources are proprietary, but treat these in a uniform way using national data sets.
Can a Soundscore™ rating affect selling a house or renting out an apartment?
Yes. Like information about schools, commute times or crime statistics, a Soundscore™ rating helps people understand what it is like to live in a neighborhood. Whether the neighborhood is quiet or loud affects the quality of life there, and so can also affect the sale prices in the neighborhood. However, Soundscore™ is fair and transparent, and so is a useful tool for people trying to find the right place to live.
Who is Soundscore™ intended for?
Would you rather take one minute to look at a quick summary of noise information before you move into a new home or would you prefer to learn about it first hand after you’ve driven across town or even moved in? Soundscore™ saves house hunters time by making the information available while they’re looking and makes them more confident in their decision to bid on a home. We license the data to listings sites so that their sites have this useful, unique information and draw more users.
The Minneapolis market is hot, hot, hot! A ten year low in the number of homes for sale combined with low mortgage interest rates is encouraging buyers to over pay for properties. When inventory increases, these buyers could experience a case of remorse. Here are some basic tips from bank rate.com to avoid overpaying for a home. http://abcnews.go.com/Business/ways-homebuyers-overpay/story?id=21576544#
First-time homebuyers, as well as those looking in a hot market, are susceptible to overpaying because they have a hard time exercising discipline when it comes to price, according to Herman Chan, a real estate broker in San Francisco.
“Any buyer can make a mistake, and if they don’t keep a level head, that mistake can end up costing them a lot of money,” Chan says.
Buyers should familiarize themselves with some of the common ways that end up causing them to overpay.
|Open house fever|
Sellers use open houses to drum up interest in their property. But looked at from a buyer’s point of view, the open house is a big caution flag.
“It’s easy to get caught up in frenzy of an open house,” Chan says. “With people jam-packed like sardines acting like piranhas, it brings out the competitive nature in all of us, and it’s all too easy to end up overpaying because of the hype.”
Thankfully, open houses aren’t mandatory. If you’re interested in the property, Chan advises buyers to ask for a private showing where there are no distractions like food, music or overly enthusiastic looky-loos.
But even in a private showing, Chan says buyers need to be conscious of staging techniques that are often designed to wow them into complacency.
Read from Bankrate: Homebuyers, banish the drama of staging
“Remember, that staging look is not how it will be when you live there,” Chan says. “Those are topical treatments to make the house sexy. So keep a level head on your shoulders and examine the basics like plumbing, roof, electric and the foundation. Once you see the underbelly of the home, you’ll be less inclined to overpay.”
|Couple on a different page|
If you’re purchasing real estate with your significant other, you’d better get on the same page or you’ll end up stretching your wish list — and that will cost you, Chan says.
For example, one couple Chan represented differed on location. He wanted to be close to work, which meant an affordable neighborhood. She wanted a better school district, which meant spending more. As it turned out, their child was due to graduate next year, which raised a red flag for Chan.
“I told them, if you’re staying in this home for a while, why overpay for a one-year advantage?” Chan says. “What they needed to do was discuss their timelines and long-term goals, then go looking for a home.”
Read more from Bankrate: 5 emotional mistakes made by homebuyers
Chan advises couples to make separate lists of their wants versus needs, then rank them from most to least important, and compare.
“After visiting homes, check back with your lists. You’ll be amazed at how malleable they can be, so keep an open mind,” he says. “For some buyers there are things that are worth overpaying for, but you need to know what that is for your spouse, and you need to set boundaries so you don’t overpay on everything.”
|Buyer in a hurry|
Typically, buyers spend months or more searching for a home. But not all buyers have that kind of time, especially if the purchase is driven by a life change, such as a new job or a divorce.
“Any time a lengthy process is condensed into one or two weekends, the potential for mistakes is amplified,” says Ziad Najm of Cedar Real Estate in South Orange County, Calif. “If not handled properly, a rushed purchase during a potentially stressful life change can often lead to buyer’s remorse on multiple levels, including overpaying or choosing a home in the wrong area.”
Read more from Bankrate: 5 first-time homebuyer mistakes
A buyer in a time crunch can mitigate the problem by working with an experienced agent who is active in the area, he says.
“Neighborhoods tend to have nuances and trends that are not necessarily obvious to most buyers,” he says. “An experienced agent may have specific knowledge about a property that can be advantageous to the buyer, especially if they’re on a tight timeline. It could be that they know of a house that’s a better fit, or they might have a local’s understanding of maintenance issues, for example.”
|Lowball offer backfires|
Unless the property has been sitting on the market for months or more without so much as a nibble, most real estate agents advise buyers against making lowball offers, which are substantially below the asking price. The reasoning is that lowball offers really aren’t offers at all because sellers either don’t take them seriously or see them as an insult.
“Aside from the strong possibility of losing out to a higher bidder, the big risk is starting off on the wrong foot with the seller,” says Bill Golden, an independent Realtor with Re/Max in Atlanta. “If the seller gets insulted, or feels that yours is not a serious offer, they are less likely to respond with a reasonable counteroffer, and you’ve basically shot yourself in the foot.”
While that doesn’t mean the deal is dead, it can mean that the seller will be reluctant to negotiate when the buyer makes a serious offer. By starting off with a respectful offer, even if it’s below the asking price, Golden says buyers create an opening to adjust the price downward as the deal moves toward closing.
|Don’t know the neighborhood|
When you don’t know the area, you won’t know a good location from a bad one, and that ignorance will cost you.
“It is always best to be a well-informed buyer, but obviously this doesn’t always happen,” says Marge Peck, an associate broker with Discover Arizona Real Estate in Mesa, Ariz.
There’s a simple solution — work with an experienced agent who knows the area.
“If a buyer is working with their real estate agent, this shouldn’t be a problem,” Peck says. “The buyer’s agent can, and should, educate them on what has happened to the house and what the neighborhood is like.”
If an agent can’t provide additional details about the neighborhood or doesn’t seem to know the community, experts say it’s best just to move along and find an agent who does. Hyperlocal knowledge can help buyers find the best listings and secure the right price.
In a competitive market, buyers commonly spend months making offers on multiple homes. The process can be exhausting and demoralizing — and expensive.
“Buyers can most definitely get fatigued in this market,” Golden says. “Bidding on homes and not getting anywhere can be very frustrating, and sometimes that frustration does cause buyers to up their budget.”
Increasing your budget isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in a competitive market. The key is remaining within an affordable range, according to Golden.
“I would strongly advise buyers against overpaying by a lot just because they’re worn down,” Golden says. “It makes more sense to either rethink their wants and needs in a home, or even consider sitting it out a bit, if they’re able to.”
|Shifting the goalpost sale|
A deal is supposed to be a deal. But in hypercompetitive markets, sometimes sellers renege after accepting an offer, only to jack up the price. The phenomenon is common enough to have a name: the shift-the-goalpost sale. Unfortunately, says Jennifer Chiongbian of Rutenberg Realty in New York, “some buyers do fall for it.”
Sometimes, according to Chiongbian, buyers put up with sellers reneging on offers because they fear losing out on the property or just don’t want to go through another round of searching. But, Chiongbian, says, buyers can end up paying tens of thousands of dollars more when they continue negotiating with sellers who reneged on accepted offers.
What’s a buyer to do? Taking legal action likely just means more money spent on lawyers. Instead, says Chiongbian, “buyers need to either take a firm stand and say no, or risk losing the property.”