Open space, open jobs and open opportunities for those looking for a change of scenery—Bismarck has been lauded for all three and much, much more. Livability named it a best place to live and work, especially given the fact that the city has one of the lowest jobless rates in the nation. Farmer’s Insurance has named it the Most Secure Place to Live, and Sperling called it the least stressful small city.
Bismarck also has won rave after rave as one of the safest metro areas thanks to its low crime rate. A safe city with has a strong economy and has a hot housing market? Seems too good to be true. But in Bismarck, the numbers certainly don’t lie.
According to Money magazine, which named Bismarck to its list of 25 Best Places for Affordable Homes, residents who buy real estate here see their money go the furthest. Plus, the cost of living is well below the national average. Want to find a house that nestles up to the east bank of the Missouri River? Buying a pre-existing, two-bedroom condo on the river will run you about $320,000.
For those looking to build a dream home, empty riverside lots start at $120,000. Just make sure you get to your local home-improvement store early because the city’s construction business is booming. Between 2000 and 2007, Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce President Kelvin Hullet says the city was issuing about 500 new single family homes permits a year in the Bismarck-Mandan area.
That trend hasn’t stopped: The total number of permits issued for residential construction in August 2009 was up from the same period in 2008. Time magazine reported that it’s difficult to find a foreclosure sign on the streets of Bismarck. It’s true. The city hasn’t experienced the sting from the collapse of the housing market. Around these parts, houses are actually increasing in value. According to the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association, the average sale price of a single-family home in August 2009 was $160,921, which is up from $150,997 in August 2008. Who exactly is living in those houses? While Bismarck has typically attracted families and retirees, Hullet says the city is starting to see an influx of young professionals as well.
Families might be drawn to the Victorian-style homes in the historic Cathedral District, where some houses date back as far as the 1880s and others were constructed in the first part of the 20th century. Young professionals may soon inhabit Bismarck’s downtown, where Hullet says redevelopment plans are in the works to transition real estate that has typically been used for retail into dining, living and entertainment spaces. However, it seems that one retail space will certainly remain. Unlike in many cities, the Kirkwood Mall, Bismarck’s major shopping center, is located conveniently in the heart of downtown. With the average low temperature in January falling just below zero, winters here can be quite frigid. But locals will tell you that there are plenty of metropolitan amenities, small-town perks and friendly neighbors—people who often say hello even if they’re never met you—to warm your heart until summer comes.
Once the warmth does invade the city’s rolling hills, it brings average July temperatures of about 83 degrees with it. Did we mention that Bismarck’s median commute time is just under 12 minutes? When Hullet and his family relocated here six years ago, he was just as much in awe of his quick drive to work as he was of the city’s small-town feel. In fact, Hullet says it’s not all that atypical to catch a glimpse of the Governor out for a jog—without security detail. “People here are very genuine,” he says. “It’s easy to fit in here.”