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North Dakota outshines other states in recent housing and economic reports

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

North Dakota may not have the sunny beaches of Florida or California, but the state outshines all others in some recent housing and economic rankings reports:

  • The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) found North Dakota to be the state with the lowest numbers of .
  • A report by LendingTree’s Chief Economist Cameron Findlay (see where your state ranks in chart below) found North Dakota ranked #1 in terms of the best housing and loan conditions.
  • A study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Chamber Foundation identified North Dakota to be the nation’s top overall over the past decade.

This may come as a surprise to some of us. But not to North Dakotans who are used to keeping things under wraps in the winter when temperatures can plunge below zero. That’s enough to chill the hooves of North Dakota’s 38-feet-high cow sculpture, Salem Sue, who stoically represents the state’s dairy industry and is billed as the “World’s Largest Cow.”

According to the , the top five states in terms of low loan delinquencies are North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Vermont. The states with the highest percentage of loan delinquencies (90 days or longer overdue) are Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida and Michigan. Interestingly, delinquencies seem to be more common among warmer Sun Belt states than their northern neighbors.

Compared to Florida

LendingTree Chief Economist Cameron Findlay wasn’t looking at climate when he put together his report, but some of his findings reflect a similar tendency. Findlay evaluated loan delinquencies and a range of other factors to determine which states have the best overall housing environment. He then ranked them according to which were the most stable prospects for people (you can read his , or see where your state ranks at the end of this post).

North Dakota came out on top – and Florida at the bottom.

A part of the reason for North Dakota’s high standings, explained Findlay, was its home appreciation of 4.5% over the past year (and 13.5% over past three months). North Dakotans are also keeping busy, according to Findlay’s data: Just 4% of North Dakotans are unemployed compared to the national average of almost 10%. A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that the state (with a population of roughly 647,000)  managed to avoid the housing speculation in part due to its

Florida suffered a 4.5% housing price decline over the past year and a 14.5% dip over the past three months, said Findlay. Looking specifically at loans that carried the most risk (non-Agency originations that have been securitized), Florida’s rate of delinquency was exceptionally high at 47 percent compared to 27 percent nationwide, according to Findlay. That was in part due to the high number of investment or “second home” properties in the state, said Findlay. California, another sunny state with a large population, also fared poorly in delinquencies and unemployment.

Exodus to North Dakota?

The Sun Belt states may have traditionally attracted more people, but Findlay noted that basic economics  - often influenced by  job prospects – is what drives local housing markets.

Jill Beck, executive vice president of the North Dakota Association of Realtors, said that the state is already seeing an uptick of inquiries from people interesting in moving here for jobs. The “cold and barren” stereotype, she said, is far from the truth: ”We have our distinct four seasons and this is a good, caring community with a strong work ethic, and sincerity.”

Heather LeMoine, marketing manager for the North Dakota Department of Commerce’s Tourism division, added that North Dakota is also becoming a destination point for outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, fishing, hunting and golfing. “We’ve been seeing some strong interest in North Dakota, and that’s attributable to a lot of different things, such as a strong business climate and the Canadian dollar doing well,” she said. “Tourism also benefits when the state is placed in a positive economic way.”

If that’s the case, and the state’s other giant roadside sculptures (the population includes a bull, a turtle and a buffalo) may soon be getting some more curious visitors – and neighbors.

Photo of North Dakota courtesy of through a Creative Commons license.

Do you live in North Dakota? Do these economic and housing reports make you want to visit or move to North Dakota? Share your thoughts below.

Video: Courtesy of via YouTube

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