North Dakota is a wonderful state in which to live. It has four distinct seasons, low traffic and crime and plenty of room to find your place. It is also unlike almost anyplace in the United States when it comes to shopping for a house. You will have all of the typical considerations (price, location, construction, taxes, etc.), but also a few that are unique to a state where the earth is flat and the winters can be long. If you’re looking to buy a house in North Dakota – or even if you’re a long-time resident who is curious about what sets the state apart – read on. You’ll find five unique things to take into consideration when you look for a house in North Dakota.
One: How Are You Going To Clear The Driveway?
If you live in North Dakota or plan to move here, you already know that the state gets a lot of snow (three feet a year in the northeastern part of the state). But did you know that snow doesn’t pile up the same in all driveways? Not only should you consider how long your driveway is, but also which direction it faces and what obstructions are in place that will result in drifts. A lot of the wind in North Dakota blizzards comes from the north and northwest, so it’s somewhat predictable (though never guaranteed) where snow will accumulate.
If your neighbors are close by, it’s also helpful to know where they put snow in the winter (something you won’t be able to ascertain if you purchase your house in a warmer month, obviously). If you and your neighbors don’t work together, some blizzards can be extra frustrating as you move snow, then have to move it again when it blows onto your property as your neighbors clear their own driveways and sidewalks.
“I think people are surprised that everybody’s driveway seems to collect snow a little differently,” says Missy Moen, a home lender at First United Bank in Park River, North Dakota. “Sometimes it takes a little getting used to.”
Does this mean you shouldn’t buy a house if the driveway fills up with snow? Of course not – in North Dakota every driveway fills up with snow – but it can give you a head start on keeping your garage or parking spaces accessible when things get blustery.
Two: What Direction Do The Windows Face?
This seems like an important question for homebuyers in any state, but North Dakota’s geography is unique because there is often nothing – literally nothing – to stop the sun from shining into your house. Without mountains, hills or skyscrapers, North Dakota horizons are wide open. This is mostly a pleasant phenomenon, as rooms are gently heated by the sun, even in the winter. However, during certain times of year, dawn and sunset can result in an intense light show that causes drivers to reach for their sunglasses (and occasionally even pull over to the side of the road) and homeowners to use window coverings to prevent the sun from blinding occupants.
This consideration is less about whether or not to buy a house and more about how you should plan for window coverings. Depending on the orientation of the house (along with trees, neighboring houses, etc.), you may find that you need blinds on some windows and drapes on others, for example.
Three: Does The Basement Or Yard Flood In The Spring?
In a state as flat as North Dakota, flooding is a challenge almost every year. Not only do rivers spill out of their banks, excess moisture can result in overland flooding, a phenomenon in which water simply moves across the prairie. Without natural differences in elevation, humans often have to manage drainage themselves. This also goes for the water table, a serious consideration for anybody with a basement. While these subterranean living areas provide an important addition to a home’s living space, they can leak in the spring when the ground thaws. Knowing the flooding history of the property – particularly the basement – is an important part of any buying decision in Midwest, especially North Dakota.
You can overcome flooding with projects like drain tile and sump pumps, but anyone that plans to live with water issues should go into the deal with their eyes wide open. Spring in North Dakota is a wonderful season, but the potential for flooding is often an underlying theme.
“Talk to your realtor and your banker about the possibility of flooding,” suggests Moen. “It’s good to have as much information as possible, and they can often point you in the right direction for insurance and other steps that can make it a lot easier to live with water in North Dakota.”
Four: Are There Large Trees Near The House?
This is one of the windiest states in the country, and while it may be wonderful to have a large shade tree in your yard, you should also be aware of its branches and where they may end up in a windstorm (or, rarely, a tornado). After a powerful wind in North Dakota, it’s a common sight to see fences blown over, shingles blown off and trees damaged.
Homeowners manage this risk by trimming branches so that they won’t fall directly on the house (or on vehicles). Trees are a big attraction in the Upper Midwest for good reason: they provide a welcome break from the sun, the flat terrain and, ironically, the wind. However, they need to be planted and cared for properly so that these benefits can be enjoyed even when the wind picks up speed.
Five: What Shape Is The Concrete In?
North Dakotans have a close relationship with the freeze / thaw cycle of the earth. Road construction is a constant challenge because concrete and pavement crack due to the heaving and retreating soil (thanks to the water in the ground expanding as ice, then thawing). A new sidewalk in North Dakota will often crack after a single winter, and driveways that are only a few years old feature long, feathery breaks that seem to grow each year. It is simply part of life in the Northland.
Although there is little you can do to avoid or fix cracks in concrete, the shape of the sidewalk and driveway may be a consideration simply because they are often overlooked. In other words, if there is a crack in your concrete, it is only getting larger. Psychologically, it might be helpful to deal with that inevitability before settling on a house (or its price).
A Great Place To Call Home
Despite these unique factors, North Dakota is one of the country’s best places to purchase a home. “It’s already a fantastic place to raise a family,” Moen says. “You just need a mortgage that fits your lifestyle. Start by choosing a bank that understands the best ways to make this feel like home. First United Bank, for example, has been helping North Dakotans to buy houses for as long as there have been houses in North Dakota.”
Interested in finding a new home on the great plains? Contact First United Bank and get pre-approved today. You’ll have one less thing to think about as you consider the exciting possibilities of living in North Dakota.