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This piece is presented by the Minnehaha County Economic Development Association.
For about five days earlier this year, Brad and Carrie Eggert found themselves in a real estate whirlwind.
Baltic residents since 2008, they didn’t want to leave the community. But with three kids, their starter home had the family feeling squeezed.
“It gets pretty cramped, and I had two kids sharing a room,” Carrie Eggert said.
“I wanted to stay in Baltic because I like the school and my kids enjoy it. But we knew if something comes open in Baltic, you have to act on it quick. They’re hot items.”
So when she saw a house listed on a Tuesday night, she was there with her family to look at it the following day.
“We just fell in love,” she said. “It had everything we needed.”
Their offer was accepted the following day. And by Tuesday of the following week, the Eggerts’ starter home had sold.
“It happened to be a young couple getting married and looking for their first house, and it fits perfect,” Eggert said.
Baltic has become the ideal fit for a growing number of homeowners. In the past two years, the community of 1,300 just north of Sioux Falls issued building permits for 19 new homes with a total valuation of $3.3 million. So far this year, the town has issued permits for three, totaling $505,000.
“It’s been exciting to be a part of,” Mayor Mike Wendland said.
Wendland has been mayor for 17 years and served on the Baltic City Council three years before that. He has witnessed the growth of two housing developments in town: Baltic Heights on the northeast side, which mostly attracts first-time homebuyers, and Valley View on the south side, where lots are filling up with move-up buyers.
“We’re a little hidden secret,” he said. “Until you discover us, you don’t know much about it. But once you do, you like it.”
It’s not uncommon for houses to sell before they officially go on the market, he added. One family recently sold a house for $6,000 above asking price, “and they sold it in hours,” he said. “It’s absolutely crazy.”
The proximity to Sioux Falls combined with Baltic’s small-town feel attracts homeowners, Wendland said. There’s a significant cost difference, too.
“You can literally buy a house in Baltic and the same house in Sioux Falls is probably $25,000 more,” he said. “And the lots in Baltic go for $40,000 or $45,000 for a really nice lot. I think when you roll all that up, it just creates excitement, and that’s what’s helping Baltic grow.”
Families like the Eggerts are a big part of the reason. Brad is from Howard, and Carrie is from Lake Preston. When jobs relocated them to the Sioux Falls area from Brookings, they looked for a place that reminded them of their hometowns.
“At the time, we had a 2-year-old, and we knew we wanted a small town with a decent school,” she said. “Both our kids in school have a double class with about 20 students in each class, so it’s a good size. It seems like a younger community.”
It is. The average age in Baltic is 32.
“We’re a super young community,” Wendland said. “A lot of times, the core of the community is the school, and the school is definitely that for us with great facilities and great education.”
The age group also is mobile, he said, and doesn’t mind a short drive to work in Sioux Falls. Many commutes are 20 minutes or less.
“I work on the north side of Sioux Falls and can leave my driveway and park where I work in 13 minutes,” Wendland said. “I can get to work faster from Baltic than people that live in Sioux Falls.”
Baltic’s growth is part of what has caused the four-county metro area to grow by an average of 5,000 people a year, said Nick Fosheim, executive director of the Minnehaha County Economic Development Association.
“Our regional communities are a destination. They offer a quality of life and access to amenities and opportunities,” he said. “I don’t see that trend slowing down.”
The next growth phase for Baltic hopefully will involve commercial development, Wendland said. Land has been prepared for commercial use, and the town could use more stores and services.
“It takes rooftops. You have to build that base of population, and as these people start to call Baltic their hometown, they get a sense of supporting local. We’ll get there.”
The Eggerts would like shopping and dining options, too, but say they will be patient and are just glad they were able to move up without moving out of the town that has become home.
“It’s just a strong-knit community,” Eggert said. “We’re moved in and settled, and I’ve got three very happy kids and that makes a happy mom.”
Baltic has become the ideal fit for a growing number of homeowners.