In this blog post, I am going to try to explain one of the mistakes that has been made in Dickinson that has prevented permanent growth. No, I am not going to write about local people in Dickinson being unfriendly, uncooperative, not helpful, and hostile for the 100th time, I am going to write about something that I have not covered yet.
I will illustrate what I am trying to explain using a real life example of a woman named “Trudy” who moved to Dickinson with her husband approximately two years ago. Trudy and her husband are in their late forties, and they moved to Dickinson because of her husband’s job. They had moved to different towns more than several times during their marriage because of her husband’s job.
Initially, when they moved to Dickinson two years ago, they rented an apartment. They wanted to look for and try to find the right house for them. With the sale of their previous home and their financial situation, they could have afforded to buy the most expensive home listed for sale in Dickinson if they wanted to. But they were really only looking for a nice looking, comfortable, modest home that was the right size for them.
Trudy and her husband did not like paying the very high apartment rent that was the result of the oil boom that began in 2007 in western North Dakota. The rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Dickinson was typically $2,000 to $3,000 per month. Most people recognized that if you are going to pay $24,000 to $36,000 per year in rent, you would be much better off financially by using that amount of money to purchase a home.
Trudy liked Dickinson, and she liked the people in Dickinson. She was looking forward to buying a house and making a home here with her husband. She was looking forward to getting out of their apartment, this was only supposed to be a temporary arrangement.
Trudy looked, and looked for a house in Dickinson. She looked at every on-line listing, she looked at all the printed real estate guides, she went to real estate offices, she drove around Dickinson looking at homes “For Sale By Owner” and to look for any house for sale that she wasn’t already aware of.
Trudy looked for a house in Dickinson for 1-1/2 years. Though from time to time she found a house that would have been O.K. for her and her husband, everything was overpriced. It was as if the home owners and the real estate agents did not think that anyone else was aware that the oil boom was over, and that the oil field was not going to pick up any time soon, and possibly not for a long time. It also appeared that the home owners and the real estate agents believed that there were people “with a lot of money”, that would just go ahead and buy a house for $250,000 to $450,000 without even thinking about it.
Most people that are capable of purchasing a home for $250,000 to $450,000 are financially shrewd people, who are not in the habit of losing money. These people don’t willingly over-pay for anything. But in Dickinson, there seemed to be this wide-spread belief that there were vast numbers of home buyers that didn’t know how much homes were worth, and that the thought never entered their mind, “What could I expect to re-sell this home for in the future?”
Dickinson began to lose its charm for Trudy and her husband. The people didn’t turn out to be that friendly or very helpful after all. They could not find a reasonably priced home, and living in their apartment was unpleasant. There was not a lot to do in Dickinson. Eventually, both Trudy and her husband agreed that they would be happier and better off if they just moved to a different state.
I used this story up above to illustrate that both the excessive gouging on housing during the oil boom, and the current and continuing over-pricing on houses, has made about 90% of the people who came to Dickinson in the past ten years make up their minds that they would never stay in Dickinson. I am not saying that 10% of the people decided to stay, I am saying that 90% of the people made up their minds that they would never stay.
Of the 10% of the people who came to Dickinson in the past ten years who didn’t make up their minds that they would never stay, many or most of this 10% had to leave anyway because they lost their job, or they could not find a reasonably priced house. Trudy and her husband would be in this 10%.
In other words, Dickinson drives almost everyone who comes here away. The population of Dickinson is going to continue to decrease every year, for years to come.