25 Cheapest Places to Live in Minnesota

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Nestled just shy of Canada and just about smack-dab between the east and west coasts, Minnesota offers its residents a plethora of benefits — and to-dos that range from summertime urban adventures to ice fishing.

To boot, the Land of 10,000 Lakes is also among America’s more affordable places when you compare the cost of living by state. It ranks 24th in MERIC’s Cost of Living analysis for the third quarter of 2023, with an overall cost of living of about 94.4% of the U.S. average.

Minnesotans are fortunate to live in a state where even the bustling capital is more affordable than the average U.S. city. But there are also plenty of smaller towns to choose from, including lake- and riverside gems — many of which offer even lower costs. So let’s dive into the best spots in the North Star State, no matter your needs.

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Best Places to Live in Minnesota

From busy city streets to the laid-back attitude of smaller towns with tightly knit communities, Minnesota’s best places to live run the gamut — and are spread all across the state. Below, we’ve listed options based on different needs and stages of life, separating out the best Minnesota cities for families from those for young adults and retirees.

We’ve also included information on housing affordability for each spot, since shelter is usually the biggest budget line item. If you’re a first-time homebuyer or looking for help with the mortgage preapproval process, be sure to check out SoFi’s Home Loan Help Center for more information.

Image Credit: SamWagnerTimelapse/istockphoto.

Best Affordable Places to Live in Minnesota

Here are our top picks for the most affordable and attractive spots to land in Minnesota.

1. Mankato

A charming mid-sized city spanning three counties and tucked just 90 minutes southwest of Minneapolis, Mankato has a lot going for it — in addition to a cost of living about 6% lower than the American average. Outdoorsy adventurers will enjoy excursions to Minneopa Falls and the Mount Kato ski bowl, while historic homes, parks, breweries, and more mean there’s never a shortage of things to do in town.

  • Population: 45,140
  • Median Household Income: $56,274
  • Cost of Living: 93.8% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,400
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.1
  • Average Property Tax: 1.13%

Housing Affordability: Home values in Mankato hover well below the U.S. average, and the rental market is affordable — though it’s warming up. Home-buyers looking to get in on the market can look into these tips to qualify for a mortgage.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

2. St. Paul

The (slightly) smaller twin of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, not to mention the state’s capital, St. Paul beckons for a variety of reasons — not least of which are its affordable housing and bustling downtown. Residents can enjoy easy access to the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Como Park Zoo, as well as diverse neighborhoods speckled with character-filled historic architecture.

  • Population: 303,176
  • Median Household Income: $63,483
  • Cost of Living: 97.6% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,320
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.5
  • Average Property Tax: 1.47%

Housing Affordability: It’s not often rental prices in a state’s capital are so much lower than the U.S. median — but St. Paul is an exception. The average home value of around $278,000 means home ownership is within grasp of many residents, too, regardless of which type of mortgage loan suits them.

(Learn more: Personal Loan Calculator

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3. Minneapolis

The largest city in Minnesota, Minneapolis is a metropolis that boasts plenty of job opportunities across fields ranging from healthcare to finance to manufacturing. Plus, as home to the University of Minnesota, the city provides ample educational opportunities for anyone looking to brush up on their skills or get a new start. The presence of the college also brings plenty of art and culture through the city, and the international airport here serves as a portal to the rest of the world.

  • Population: 425,096
  • Median Household Income: $70,099
  • Cost of Living: 98.9% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,511
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.6
  • Average Property Tax: 1.32%

Housing Affordability: While homes are a little higher valued in Minneapolis than in St. Paul, they’re still significantly below the U.S. average and within reach for a wide range of buyers. Though the rental market is warm, the average price is still 24% less than the national going rate, and many rental homes are within walking distance of the city’s most popular attractions.

Image Credit: Davel5957/istockphoto.

4. St. Cloud

For those who dream of leaving big-city life behind and finding a space of paradise along the Mississippi River, St. Cloud could be a solid choice. About an hour and 15 minutes northwest of Minneapolis, this town is known for being home to St. Cloud University, which brings not only job and educational opportunities but also plenty of vibrant, cultural energy to the mid-sized town.

  • Population: 69,568
  • Median Household Income: $54,427
  • Cost of Living: 99.3% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $972
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.4
  • Average Property Tax: 1.25%

Housing Affordability: Three-digit average rental prices can make St. Cloud a very attractive option for renters. An average home value around $233,000 offers room for hopeful homeowners, too.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

5. Northfield

For those looking for a smaller-town feel, Northfield offers the dual incentives of low cost of living and welcoming community. Despite its small size, Northfield boasts a substantial handful of art galleries and theaters, as well as two liberal arts colleges, St.

Olaf and Carleton. Finally, the town is within a stone’s throw of bigger communities like Rochester and Minneapolis, which can help residents round out job opportunities and social activities.

  • Population: 20,924
  • Median Household Income: $73,877
  • Cost of Living: 84% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,300
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.0
  • Average Property Tax: 1.17%

Housing Affordability: While home values in Northfield slightly outpace the American average, they’re still achievable at around $380,000, and the warming rental market offers prices 35% lower than the national median.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

Best Places to Live in Minnesota for Families

Having kids changes everything — including the best places to live. Here are our top Minnesota spots for families, taking into account things for kids to do, factors that parents care about, and, of course, affordability.

1. Maple Grove

While Maple Grove has the highest cost of living on our entire list (still only 2% higher than the U.S. average), we had to include it because families are drawn here for its well-regarded public schools, in particular those in the Wayzata Public School District.

Beyond that, the suburb is within easy reach of Minneapolis and all its many to-dos, as well as outdoorsy adventures outside of the city.

  • Population: 70,582
  • Median Household Income: $118,479
  • Cost of Living: 102% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $2,498
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3.4
  • Average Property Tax: 1.32%

Housing Affordability: Although Maple Grove has the most expensive housing market on our list, especially for renters, its home value-to-income ratio remains at a relatively manageable 3.4, owing in part to its higher-than-average median household income.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

2. Eagan

Another Minneapolis suburb located on the other side of town, Eagan ranked high on our list. Families like the solid public schools and lower-than-average cost of living here. The town is home to plenty of outdoor recreation options and playgrounds suited for children, not to mention abundant playmates: Nearly a third of its households have children.

  • Population: 67,534
  • Median Household Income: $98,503
  • Cost of Living: 92% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,625
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.0
  • Average Property Tax: 1.17%

Housing Affordability: The combination of a higher-than-average median household income and a lower-than-average cost of living make affording housing in Eagan easier than in many other family-friendly locales. The rental market is warm, but not hot, with prices remaining nearly 20% lower than the national median.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

3. St. Cloud

St. Cloud has a smaller-town feel that leans closer to the “village” it takes to raise kids. About 27% of its households have children, and the town offers plenty of family friendly activities, including an indoor trampoline park and beloved bowling alley. Parents also are attracted to its well-rated school system. For parents, abundant job opportunities combined with a low cost of living make living in St. Cloud a win-win.

  • Population: 69,568
  • Median Household Income: $54,427
  • Cost of Living: 99.3% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $972
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.4
  • Average Property Tax: 1.25%

Housing Affordability: With median rental prices hovering below $1,000 and home values averaging about $237,000, housing in St. Cloud is more affordable than in many other Minneapolis cities — and far more affordable than in cities and states further afield. The market is warm, but not hot, so there’s still plenty of time and space to get in.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

4. Mankato

Along with scoring the top spot on our general list, Mankato makes the list for families, too — this time owing to its cost of living combined with its educational and outdoor recreational offerings. Residents have easy access to Sibley Park and Minneopa State Park, where kids can learn to appreciate all of nature’s wonders, and yearly events like the River Ramble and Kiwanis Holiday Lights make it easy to get out of the house and in on the fun.

  • Population: 45,140
  • Median Household Income: $56,274
  • Cost of Living: 93.8% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,400
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.1
  • Average Property Tax: 1.13%

Housing Affordability: With both rental and home values substantially lower than the U.S. average, Mankato makes finding housing affordable and possible even for larger families with many young ones to house.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

5. Duluth

For parents who believe life is better on the lake, Duluth offers ample opportunities to raise a family in an affordable setting. A mid-sized city tucked close to other communities, Duluth has lots of opportunities for kids and adults alike, including educational yet fun attractions like the Great Lakes Aquarium and Glensheen Mansion.

The yearly Duluth Airshow will keep little engineers gazing upwards, while job opportunities in healthcare, education, and hospitality will keep parents gainfully busy.

  • Population: 86,619
  • Median Household Income: $58,014
  • Cost of Living: 93% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,494
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.5
  • Average Property Tax: 1.18%

Housing Affordability: Duluth enjoys an overall cost of living some 7% lower than the U.S. average, as well as home values and median rent prices that undercut the national medians.

Image Credit: SamWagnerTimelapse/istockphoto.

Best Places to Live in Minnesota for Young Adults

For 20- and 30-somethings looking to mix, mingle, and find upward career mobility, there are many affordable options in Minnesota to choose from. Here are our picks.

1. St. Paul

All of the action of Minneapolis at a slightly lower price tag — and meanwhile, the two towns are only 20 minutes apart, which means young adults who move to St. Paul get double the career and dating opportunities. No wonder the city’s median age is just 32.7.

  • Population: 303,176
  • Median Household Income: $63,483
  • Cost of Living: 97.6% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,320
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.5
  • Average Property Tax: 1.47%

Housing Affordability: St. Paul home values hover around $280,000, which is almost $100,000 less than the national average — putting homeownership within reach even for younger adults. Just getting started on your search? Here are some key differences between mortgage prequalification and preapproval to be aware of.

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2. Duluth

For young adults seeking the coziness of a mid-sized town, Duluth has a draw with its twin attractions of scenic surroundings and a low cost of living. Plus, its median age is just 33.9, and about half of its households are singletons. What better place to take a date than the Lake Superior waterfront?

  • Population: 86,619
  • Median Household Income: $58,014
  • Cost of Living: 93% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,494
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.5
  • Average Property Tax: 1.18%

Housing Affordability: Both the median rent price and average home value in Duluth are below those found in other parts of the nation, and the property tax is relatively low at 1.18%. The market is hot, hot, hot, though, which means there may be some competition.

Image Credit: James_Gabbert/istockphoto.

3. Rochester

With a median age in the mid-30s and about 70% of its households without children, Rochester offers opportunities for single young adults despite its size — and for those in healthcare, ample career opportunities as the birthplace of the renowned Mayo Clinic.

  • Population: 121,878
  • Median Household Income: $79,159
  • Cost of Living: 99% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,491
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3.1
  • Average Property Tax: 1.34%

Housing Affordability: Home values in Rochester are about in sync with those in Minneapolis, and still well below the national average. While property taxes are higher than some other Minnesota counties, the median rent price remains 25% lower than the national median.

Image Credit: rruntsch/istockphoto.

4. Mankato

Yet again, Mankato makes our list, this time for young adults who would benefit from a smaller-town feel coupled with an affordable cost of living. Given its status as home to Minnesota State University, there are always new faces coming through despite its size, and the access to outdoor recreation is unparalleled in the state. Plus, the Twin Cities are a relatively easy drive whenever the resources of a bigger city are desired.

  • Population: 45,140
  • Median Household Income: $56,274
  • Cost of Living: 93.8% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,400
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.1
  • Average Property Tax: 1.13%

Housing Affordability: Home values in Mankato undercut the national average by about $100,000, which is a boon to young adults looking to overcome the initial hurdle of entry. The rental market is warm, but prices are about a third lower than the national median, which means renters may feasibly still be able to save up for a down payment on their mortgage.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

5. Hutchinson

A vibrant, up-and-coming community just a short way west of Minneapolis, Hutchinson is the kind of small town young adults with vision can get into and make better. Its small but charming downtown has plenty of cafes, shops, and restaurants to choose from — and opportunities for younger adults looking to make their mark.

  • Population: 14,678
  • Median Household Income: $58,795
  • Cost of Living: 81% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $969
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.7
  • Average Property Tax: 1.19%

Housing Affordability: Once again, housing values in Hutchinson remain remarkably affordable at about $277,000. The property taxes are lower than in some other major Minnesota metros (like St. Paul and Minneapolis, for example), and the median rent prices don’t quite break into the four figures.

Image Credit: Barbara Gabay/istockphoto.

Best Places to Live in Minnesota for Retirees

For those ready to settle into their golden years, Minnesota offers close friendships, fun to-dos, quality healthcare, and plenty of beauty. Here’s where.

1. Rochester

Not every community has something on offer for both young adults and retirees — but not every community is Rochester. Some 15% of its population is age 65 and over, and since it’s the headquarter city for the Mayo Clinic, quality healthcare options are never far from home.

  • Population: 121,878
  • Median Household Income: $79,159
  • Cost of Living: 99% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,491
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3.1
  • Average Property Tax: 1.34%

Housing Affordability: Rochester doesn’t have the most affordable housing market in the entire state — but with home values hovering at about $310,000, it’s pretty affordable from a national perspective. The property taxes are a little higher at 1.34%, but fortunately, rental prices remain 25% lower than the national median.

Image Credit: rruntsch/istockphoto.

2. Mankato

With an active population of older adults who find community and recreation through the town’s many programs for seniors, Mankato might be a fine place to while away one’s golden years without spending every dime of retirement savings. The mid-sized population is cozy enough without getting boring.

  • Population: 45,140
  • Median Household Income: $56,274
  • Cost of Living: 93.8% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,400
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.1
  • Average Property Tax: 1.13%

Housing Affordability: Home values in Mankato haven’t quite topped $300,000 on average, which may work out well for older adults looking to downsize or make a lateral move. The average property tax of 1.13% is substantially lower than in some other parts of the state.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

3. Winona

A small, scenic, and historic town tucked along the banks of the Mississippi River, Winona keeps residents of all ages young with the presence of its college community. University students also ensure the town gets more than its fair share of art and culture for a community of its size — and, of course, all of this is at a cost of living 16% lower than the national average.

  • Population: 25,842
  • Median Household Income: $48,662
  • Cost of Living: 84% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,100
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.0
  • Average Property Tax: 1.01%

Housing Affordability: With home values at about $244,000 in Winona, there’s opportunity for would-be homeowners of all ages, no jumbo mortgage needed. Low average property taxes sweeten the deal even more.

Image Credit: SamWagnerTimelapse/istockphoto.

4. Alexandria

It might not seem like a coincidence that Alexandria shares a name with the famous historic site of so much Egyptian art and culture: Along with its scenic surroundings, the town and its neighboring communities are home to many artists who display and sell their works in local galleries. Fun yearly events like the September Grape Stomp keep life juicy.

  • Population: 14,861
  • Median Household Income: $54,193
  • Cost of Living: 86% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,350
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.8
  • Average Property Tax: 0.89%

Housing Affordability: With one of the lowest property taxes on our list and home values sitting around $260,000 on average, finding a place of one’s own in Alexandria is relatively simple. The rent prices are on the low end, too, and the market remains warm, but not hot.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

5. Albert Lea

Nearly a quarter of Albert Lea’s population is aged 65 or over, which makes this small town one that’s full of new friends for seniors. The town’s Senior Center organizes a variety of events and activities that keep older adults moving, and everything’s a little easier with a cost of living 21% lower than the U.S. average.

  • Population: 18,396
  • Median Household Income: $51,047
  • Cost of Living: 79% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $995
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3.0
  • Average Property Tax: 1.12%

Housing Affordability: This small Minnesota town boasts the most affordable housing market on our list, with average home values sitting under $150,000 and a rental market not quite breaking into the four digits. While the property taxes aren’t the lowest in the state, they’re still fairly affordable.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

Best Places to Live in Minnesota Near the Water

They call Minnesota the Land of 10,000 Lakes — but it’s crisscrossed with rivers, too. Either way, here are five of the best spots to settle for affordable, scenic living.

1. Winona

If you should ever grow tired of the Mississippi waterfront, take heart: Winona also offers theater, galleries, museums, and more for those in need of indoorsy fun. With the bigger city of Rochester close at hand, this small town truly offers everything one could need.

  • Population: 25,842
  • Median Household Income: $48,662
  • Cost of Living: 84% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,100
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.0
  • Average Property Tax: 1.01%

Housing Affordability: Winona is one of those rare places blessed with both scenic surroundings and a low cost of living, with average home values sitting under $250,000. Plus its rental market, unlike so many others in the state, is still relatively cool, which means less competition.

Image Credit: SamWagnerTimelapse/istockphoto.

2. Duluth

Living along Lake Superior is its own reward, and Duluth residents can also appreciate its many indoorsy attractions when the weather grows cold. (Or they can double down and take to the shores of the lake for some ice fishing.)

  • Population: 86,619
  • Median Household Income: $58,014
  • Cost of Living: 93% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,494
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.5
  • Average Property Tax: 1.18%

Housing Affordability: Average home values of about $260,000 put home ownership within reach of many Duluth residents. The rental market is heating up, but prices are still substantially below the national average at the moment.

Image Credit: Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto.

3. Grand Rapids

Yes, there’s a Grand Rapids in Minnesota, too — and this one is named for the three-and-a-half-mile long stretch of rapids in the nearby Mississippi River. A smaller town with a population of only 11,000 or so, it also boasts a cost of living 18% lower than the U.S. average.

  • Population: 11,268
  • Median Household Income: $51,498
  • Cost of Living: 82% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $925
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.6
  • Average Property Tax: 0.83%

Housing Affordability: Property taxes are lower in Grand Rapids than many other parts of Minnesota, and home values are averaging about $230,000 these days. Renters will appreciate median prices under $1,000 and a cool market that makes it easy to get your foot in the door.

Image Credit: Tammi Mild/istockphoto.

4. Red Wing

Another Mississippi-side small town, Red Wing bears the distinction of being located just an hour outside of the Twin Cities, so its residents can benefit from big-city to-dos, too. Plus a cost of living 11% lower than the national average makes it eminently affordable for many.

  • Population: 16,672
  • Median Household Income: $61,040
  • Cost of Living: 89% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,350
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.5
  • Average Property Tax: 1.11%

Housing Affordability: With home values hovering under $280,000 and affordable median rental prices, Red Wing is an excellent option for those looking to escape the city but remain close enough for those nights when they just need to get out.

Image Credit: SamWagnerTimelapse/istockphoto.

5. Detroit Lakes

A tightly knit community tucked along the shores of Detroit Lake (and surrounded by many, many others), Detroit Lake offers a peaceful and quiet place to call home within an easy reach of beautiful natural landscapes. Its deep Minnesota interior location means the bright lights of big cities are far away — which translates to glorious night skies, when it’s clear.

  • Population: 10,011
  • Median Household Income: $57,229
  • Cost of Living: 94% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $980
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 6.4
  • Average Property Tax: 0.80%

Housing Affordability: Although home values in Detroit Lakes are a little higher than many other Minnesota markets at around $360,000, property taxes are among the lowest, and the median rental price is still in the three figures.

Image Credit: Willard/istockphoto.

The Takeaway

For those looking for affordable places to live, Minnesota has something to offer families, young adults, and retirees alike, with abundant natural beauty and cultural attractions in its many budget-friendly towns.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% – 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It’s online, with access to one-on-one help.

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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