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Raymond shines in Willmar's shadow: Affordable housing brings new residents

Erica Dischino / Tribune Houses line South Cofield Street in Raymond. Raymond’s housing market has seen an increasing number of sales as buyers find the area attractive due to lower housing costs and a quiet environment. 1 / 5
Erica Dischino / Tribune Home buyers have discovered Raymond’s affordable housing market. The low costs of golfing at the Raymond municipal course and the proximity to other amenities in Willmar are among the other features that have attracted recent home buyers.2 / 5
Erica Dischino / Tribune Raymond Mayor Ardell Tensen said many house hunters there are young families who work in Willmar and Raymond embraces its role as a bedroom community.3 / 5
Erica Dischino / Tribune Ardell Tensen, the mayor of Raymond, stands Monday in the city center. Tensen said the area embraces its role as a bedroom community. He said the city took a big step when it decided to front the costs to extend utilities and develop a street to make new housing possible.4 / 5
Erica Dischino / Tribune Raymond has seen a flurry of housing activity in recent months. Buyers find the area attractive for the affordable housing market, the slower pace of a small town and the proximity to amenities in Willmar.5 / 5

RAYMOND — Kati and Adam Hess posted an S.O.S. on Facebook.

Colin and Stephanie Froehlich jumped on a tip from one of Stephanie's co-workers.

Hal and Terri Miller got the inside track thanks to their son.

No matter the approach, the destination was the same: Raymond. They are among the new homeowners in this western Kandiyohi County community of 764 people, where there was a flurry of activity this past autumn. The successful were those who acted fast.

"That's just how it goes," said Michael Heida, who is still in the hunt for a house in Raymond. "It seems like everything that goes up gets sold pretty quick, very quick."

The house he was hoping to buy was snapped up by the Millers. The Millers had learned from their son that its owner had taken a new job out of the area and was going to be putting the house on the market.

Hal and Terri Miller said they sold their townhouse in Alexandria in all of 55 minutes, or the time it took an interested party to take a look at it and make an offer. They bought their new home in Raymond 4½ hours later.

"Grandkids were probably one of the big things that brought us," said Hal Miller.

Retired after a teaching career in Willmar, Hal and Terri Miller had moved to Alexandria but made regular trips back to Raymond to enjoy their grandchildren.

The Millers said they were also attracted to Raymond by its affordable housing market, low costs for golfing at the municipal course, easy access to the amenities available in Willmar, and small-town life. "There is a sense of community here that we've liked for a long, long time," said Hal, adding that he appreciates the slower pace of life. "There are no, no-left turn lanes," he laughed.

Kati and Adam Hess had lived in Raymond until Adam's job brought them to Sauk Centre. When his job gave them a chance to return this way, they put their house up for sale and five days later had an offer on it. That's when Kati Hess posted the S.O.S. on Facebook, stating they wanted to find a home in Raymond.

They wanted to return to the town where they could buy a permit and drive their golf cart to the golf course, walk to the park, and send their children to the elementary school, she explained. A Raymond woman had been debating whether to move permanently to her lake cabin saw Kati's Facebook post and saw it as a sign.

They bought her home before it could be listed. The proximity to Willmar was an important part of the equation for choosing Raymond, added Kati Hess. Her husband commutes to Willmar for work, and can reach his workplace in 12 minutes flat.

Stephanie and Colin Froelich both work in Willmar. They were not having much success with their house hunting, even though they had expanded their search area. A tip from one of Stephanie's co-workers led them to Raymond. They considered its price to be much more reasonable than any others they had looked at, including those in other small communities, said the couple. They signed the papers before the house ever went on the market.

"Raymond is definitely what they call a bedroom community," said Mayor Adell Tensen, who joined the recent interview with the new homeowners.

He said the community is seeing more interest in housing. Many of the house hunters are young families who work in Willmar. Affordable housing is key for them, but there are only so many homes available. Tensen said the city took a big step for a community of its size when it decided to front the costs to extend utilities and develop a street to make new housing possible.

The town's demographics reflect the arrival of young families. People under age 18 years of age represent 27.8 percent of the town's population, as compared to an average of 23.5 percent in Minnesota as a whole, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Economic Development

Affordability matters too. The state's data also show that 63.6 percent of owner-occupied housing units in the community are valued at under $100,000; and 86.1 percent are under $150,000.

Market sales of houses are increasing in Raymond. There were eight market sales — homes placed for public sale to non-family members — in the period from the fall of 2016 to the fall of 2017, and nine in the previous period. Three years ago, there were only three market sales, according to Kandiyohi County Assessor Val Svor.

She said Raymond, New London and Atwater are among the small communities in the county that have been seeing increases in residential sales. Housing values have remained fairly stable in the county. The area seeing the best growth in home values continues to be the properties in the lakes area north of Willmar.

The county's largest community continues to see a stable housing market, with 254 residential market sales recorded last year in Willmar.

Of course, it doesn't always take inside information to purchase a house in Raymond before someone gets it. Seth Zeits was living in Renville when he started house hunting. He wanted to live in a small town, and said that Raymond's proximity to Willmar and all that it offers helped draw him. "Prices were decent," he added.

He conducted a traditional housing search, but when he found the one right for him, he knew that he had to act fast. "I had to jump on something for what I was looking for," Zeits said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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