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Census: Renters pay less in N.D.

North Dakotans who rent apartments or homes are likely to pay less on average than almost anywhere else nationwide, says a recent U.S. Census Bureau report.

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North Dakotans who rent apartments or homes are likely to pay less on average than almost anywhere else nationwide, says a recent U.S. Census Bureau report.

The gross median rental cost in North Dakota is $412 a month. Only West Virginia has a lower across-the-board monthly rent at $400.

North Dakotans also tend to spend less of their household income -- 22 percent -- on rent than people in any other state, according to the report.

Considering 53 percent of people in Fargo and 32 percent of people in West Fargo rent, the numbers are notable. And yet most renters in this area know finding a quality apartment for around $400 can be tricky.

Tammy Wangler, property manager for Valley Rental, said more people are looking for apartments with amenities like washers and dryers, microwaves and garages. But these things all add up to higher rent.

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"People are looking for apartments that aren't the canned apartments," Wangler said.

Wangler said apartments in the $600 range are not uncommon in Fargo anymore.

"But, still, when you tell them $600, you can hear them cringe on the phone," she said.

The Fargo-Moorhead area's average monthly apartment rent for a one-bedroom is between $300 and $600, according to the chamber of commerce Web site. Two-bedroom apartments in rent for $350 to $1,100, according to the Web site.

The numbers were compiled by averaging 2002 information from area property management companies.

Fargo Planning Director Jim Gilmour said the high-end rents are likely to be people renting houses or town homes, which are becoming more popular. Some Fargo town homes are renting for more than $2,000 a month, he said.

On the other hand, many people in North Dakota's smaller communities would be appalled to pay that much for a place to live. More than a dozen counties in North Dakota have average rents of less than $355 per month.

In Cass, Grand Forks and Burleigh counties, average gross rents are between $435 and $601. That's not far off the national average of $602 per month.

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Minnesota landed higher on the census report, with a median gross monthly rent of $539. Although the state also has many areas where rent is below $434, the Minneapolis area brought the numbers up with average monthly rents exceeding $600.

In Moorhead, more than half of renters pay between $300 and $499 per month, said Lisa Vatnsdal, the city's community development planner.

Of the rental units in Moorhead, 19 percent rent for between $500 and $749 per month. About 9 percent go for under $200.

Moorhead's total renter population -- 36 percent -- is almost in line with the national average of 34 percent.

Fargo has had higher renter rates for years, Gilmour said, and that probably won't change anytime soon. More apartments continue to be built on both sides of the river.

The need is there, given this area has a higher percentage of elderly people, college students and others under 30 -- the most likely age groups to rent, Gilmour said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531

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