8 Steps to Buying a House in North Dakota

Clever Real Estate

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Clever Real Estate

September 16th, 2022
Updated September 16th, 2022

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8 Steps to Buying a House in North Dakota

Save for down payment | Find a real estate agent | Get preapproved for a mortgage | Choose your neighborhood | Go house hunting | Make an offer | Inspections and appraisal | Final walkthrough and closing

Buying a house in North Dakota is an exciting milestone, but the process can take some time. Several factors, like your financial situation, market conditions, and the local economy can affect both how long it takes you to find a home and how much it costs you.

For example, homes in Fargo are hitting the market at $360,000 and selling within 50 days — 26 days faster than the state average! — so you'll need to move quickly if you want to beat out the competition.

The more you know about the home buying process and North Dakota's current real estate trends, the more prepared you'll be to navigate this complicated process as quickly and smoothly as possible.

No matter where you are in your home buying journey, Clever can connect you with local real estate pros who will help you purchase your North Dakota dream home!

The best part? When you buy with a Clever real estate agent, you could earn a cash-back refund worth up to 0.5% of the home price. On a qualifying $300,000 purchase, you'd get $1,500. That's real money back in your pocket!

» START: Buy with a top local agent, save thousands with Clever Cash Back

Step 1: Save for a down payment

🔑 Key takeaway:

Your down payment can be less than 20% of the purchase price — $55,664 for the typical home in North Dakota — but you'll have to purchase mortgage insurance and pay more interest over the life of your loan.

Your down payment is the first part of your home's purchase price that you pay at closing. Your mortgage lender will pay the remaining balance.

Typically, mortgage lenders in North Dakota want you to contribute 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. That would be $55,664 for a $278,322 home — the typical home value in North Dakota.

However, you have options to lower your down payment amount.

Government backed loans, like VA and FHA loans, allow you to contribute 0% and 3.5% of your home's purchase price respectively. Even conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3-5% (though the minimum varies by lender).

Mortgage type
Minimum down payment (%)
Down payment ($)
VA Loan
0%
$0
FHA Loan
3.5%
$9,741
Conventional
3%
$8,350
Based on typical home values from Zillow (August 2022)

But making a down payment of less than 20% comes with some risks.

First, because you're borrowing more money, you'll have a higher monthly payment and pay more in interest over the life of your loan.

Down payment
Monthly payment
Total interest
Total Cost
5%
$1,521
$283,239
$561,561
20%
$1,281
$238,517
$516,839
Based on home values from Zillow (August 2022) and a 5.62% interest rate for a 30-year loan.

Second, you may have to purchase mortgage insurance.

Conventional loans require private mortgage insurance (PMI) until your loan balance reaches 80% of the purchase price. FHA loans, on the other hand, require a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for the life of your loans.

Mortgage insurance costs around 1% of your mortgage balance annually. However, rates vary based on your down payment and credit score. Typically, your mortgage insurance payment is added to your mortgage payment each month.

VA loans don't charge mortgage insurance. Instead, you'll pay a VA loan funding fee at closing, which can range from 1.4% to 3.6% of the purchase price.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about low-income home loans

North Dakota down payment assistance programs

North Dakota residents can choose from several down payment assistance (DPA) programs to help them afford a house. Through these programs, eligible participants can receive a loan or second mortgage to cover closing costs or a down payment.

Check out the following programs to find out if you qualify for financial assistance:

NDHFA Start Program

The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) provides low- to moderate-income homebuyers a second mortgage of up to 3% of the first mortgage loan. These funds can be used to pay for closing costs or a down payment.

This program can only be used to purchase single-family homes or two-unit properties, and buyers must invest at least $500 to participate in the program. Purchase price and household income limits apply and vary based on the county you live in.

NDHFA DCA Program

The NDHFA DCA Program is designed to help low-income buyers pay for closing costs or a down payment. Financial aid comes as a second mortgage of up to 3% of the first mortgage loan.

Participants must invest at least $500 to qualify for the program, meet household income limits, and complete a homebuyer education program.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

You can find additional resources on North Dakota's HUD page here.

Step 2: Find a great real estate agent in North Dakota

🔑 Key takeaway:

Interview multiple agents to find one who knows your target neighborhoods, has experience in your price range, and communicates well.

Your real estate agent will be your main ally during the home buying process. Besides finding and showing you properties, your agent will help you make offers, negotiate contracts, and navigate the closing process. Plus, they can recommend other service providers like title companies and inspectors to help you buy your home in North Dakota.

Don't rush into choosing an agent. Instead, take the time to research and interview multiple real estate agents who have experience in the neighborhoods you're interested in. You should pay attention to a realtor's:

  • Years of experience
  • Number of transactions in the last year (the more the better!)
  • Experience in your price range
  • Overall review score
  • Individual reviews and complaints

Top Local Agents Hand-Picked for You!

Clever matches you with multiple agents in your area so you can interview, compare, and choose the best one to help you buy your next home.

Step 3: Get preapproved for a mortgage

🔑 Key takeaway:

Once you're preapproved for a mortgage, it's imperative that your financial situation doesn't change. If your credit drops, it can derail the process and keep you from closing on your house.

Here are some easy ways to ensure your credit doesn't change after you receive your preapproval letter:

  • Avoid opening new credit accounts
  • Don't close any accounts that have been open for a long time
  • Make all of your credit card payments on time

» LEARN MORE: What factors do mortgage lenders consider?

A mortgage preapproval letter is an offer to lend you up to a certain amount of money to purchase a home. It shows sellers that you are a serious buyer who is financially qualified to make an offer on a home.

Most sellers in North Dakota will require preapproval before showing you their home.

You don't have to decide on one lender right now. In fact, you should compare interest rates and preapproval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best terms when you buy your North Dakota home.

Get Pre-approved Today!

Get matched with a lender who can tell you how much house you can afford. To get started, where do you plan on buying?

Step 4: Choose the right location

🔑 Key takeaway:

Search for neighborhoods where:

  • Home prices are within your price range
  • Home values are on the rise
  • The local amenities support your lifestyle

Currently, the typical home value in North Dakota is $278,322, but don't worry if that doesn't perfectly match your budget. Home prices vary dramatically from city to city and even from neighborhood to neighborhood!

Also, look at past home value trends. This will give you an idea of how much your home's value could go up over the next few years.

To give you an idea of how appreciation could impact what your house is worth in the future, consider these examples from three neighborhoods in Fargo:

Home value appreciation in Fargo

Neighborhood
2015
Current
Appreciation
Jefferson-Carl Ben
$142,988
$203,066
29.6%
Osgood
$250,586
$357,496
29.9%
Brunsdale
$168,944
$249,435
32.3%

Step 5: Start house hunting in North Dakota

🔑 Key takeaway:

North Dakota’s market is strong — with the dropping inventory and increasing prices, it may be difficult to find your dream home. Keep an open mind to the listings your realtor shows you and temper your expectations. While not every home will check all the boxes on your list, you might just find one that’ll be worth the money.

Searching for homes in North Dakota is the fun part of the home buying process! You'll get to look at a variety of homes and discover what you really want in a home.

Make a list of everything you want in a home and prioritize them. At the top of the list should be the items that are most important to you. This will help you separate your "must-haves" from your "nice-to-haves."

Your agent can help you understand if your wants are realistic for your budget and favorite neighborhoods or if you need to rethink what you're looking for.

Look at current housing inventory

The timing of your house hunt in North Dakota can have a big impact on your number of options. For example, in North Dakota, May has historically seen the most homes for sale. Searching in this season could give you more options and a greater likelihood of finding your dream home.

On the other hand, December gives you the fewest choices in North Dakota. Historically, there are 63.4% fewer homes for sale than during North Dakota's peak season.

Housing inventory in North Dakota by season

Season
New listings per month
Spring
1,040
Summer
1,070
Fall
789
Winter
615
Based on data from Realtor.com (August 2022)

Step 6: Make an offer

🔑 Key takeaway:

If you find a home that you like in North Dakota, we suggest putting in a strong offer right off the bat. The limited inventory in the state is leaving very few listings at the end of each month, so expect fierce competition, especially in desirable areas. Listen to your realtor’s advice, as they know the market intimately and can help you come up with a competitive offer to capture the seller’s interest.

Once you find a North Dakota house you love, it's time to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you write a compelling offer that gives you the best shot of convincing the homeowner to sell to you.

Currently, in North Dakota, homes stay on the market for 75 days before going under contract. However, every market goes through seasonal changes. During busier months, homes get snatched up more quickly than others.

Historically, North Dakota homes sell fastest in June, where the average property is only on the market for 57 days. If your home search falls around this time, you should be prepared to move quickly and potentially make offers on several homes before yours is accepted.

On the other hand, if you buy in January, you have a bit more time to search. Homes typically stay on the market 26 days longer than North Dakota's annual average.

Average time homes spend on market in North Dakota

Annual average
75 days
January
98 days
February
97 days
March
69 days
April
65 days
May
57 days
June
55 days
July
60 days
August
64 days
September
70 days
October
74 days
November
82 days
December
95 days
Based on data from Realtor.com (August 2022)

» LEARN MORE: What should an offer include?

👋 Next Steps: Talk to an expert!

If you're weighing your options for buying or selling a house, Clever can help!

Our fully-licensed concierge team is standing by to answer questions and provide free, objective advice on getting the best outcome with your sale or purchase.

Ready to get started?

Give us a call at 1-833-2-CLEVER or enter your info below. Our concierge team will be in touch shortly to help.

Remember, this service is 100% free and there’s never any obligation.

Step 7: Inspections and appraisals

Inspections and appraisals are an opportunity for you to better evaluate the home's condition and value before officially purchasing it. You may have an opportunity after this step to renegotiate the terms of your contract with the seller if something unexpected pops up.

🔑 Key takeaway:

  • Inspections: A licensed professional checks the house for any unseen, unexpected, or potential issues.
  • Appraisals: An appraiser hired by your lender examines the house to determine how much it's worth.

Home inspections in North Dakota

Having your North Dakota home inspected by a licensed inspector gives you peace of mind about the condition of the property before you commit thousands of dollars to purchase it.

Your inspector should check out the following parts of the property:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical system
  • HVAC system
  • Plumbing

If the home has a septic system, you should also pay for a septic inspection to make sure it doesn't have any problems that wouldn't be covered in a typical home inspection.

North Dakota-specific inspections

As a “buyer beware” state, homebuyers in North Dakota have to be extra careful when inspecting a property. In addition to a general home inspection, buyers are strongly advised to have the following inspections and tests done before closing:

  • Radon testing: Certain areas in North Dakota are prone to elevated levels of radon, which can have negative effects on your health. If the seller hasn't conducted a radon test in the past year, consider doing a test as soon as possible.

    You can order an inexpensive radon test kit from the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality website.

    • Pest inspection: Termites and other pests can spread throughout a property without detection, so it's a good idea to have a professional inspect a house before you move in. Catching and treating an infestation early will help you avoid health hazards and more expensive repairs in the future.

    Appraisals

    Appraisals determine the value of the property. If you're using a mortgage to buy your new home, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure the home is worth the money that it's loaning you.

    » LEARN: 3 options for buyers after a low appraisal

    Step 8: Close on your new home!

    🔑 Key takeaway:

    Before you close on your new home, you and your agent will do a final walkthrough of the property to ensure that it's still in the expected condition.

    The closing process in North Dakota requires you to meet at the title company to finalize your paperwork and settle your closing costs.

    Prepare to spend about an hour reviewing and signing important legal documents on closing day. These papers are essential for transferring the title to your name, so it's vital to ensure all the information is correct.

    Pay special attention to these key documents:

    • Your final loan application
    • The deed
    • The mortgage promissory note
    • The disclosure statements

    After the paperwork is finished, you'll have to pay your closing costs. The title company will collect the total amount you owe to all your service providers and distribute the funds to them on your behalf.

    As a homebuyer, your closing costs will usually be divided into four different categories:

    • Lender fees: Fees paid to your mortgage lender for originating and underwriting your loan. Other costs related to your loan may be added here as well, such as appraisal fees and survey fees.
    • Title and escrow charges: Charges for the title company's services. These fees pay for the title search, title insurance, and the facilitation of the closing process.
    • Prepaid costs: Ongoing costs of homeownership. New homeowners are often required by their lenders to pay for certain expenses up front, such as property taxes and homeowners insurance.
    • Other closing costs: Miscellaneous expenses that can vary based on each unique buyer. Some common closing costs can include natural disaster certification fees or real estate attorney fees.

    Buyers in North Dakota typically pay 3–5% of the purchase price in closing costs. For a $278,300 home — the typical home value in North Dakota — that's between $8,349 and $13,915!

    » LEARN MORE: Closing costs for buyers in North Dakota

    Should you hire a real estate attorney?

    North Dakota does not require you to hire a real estate attorney to buy a home. However, depending on your circumstances, you might consider hiring one anyways. If you do, treat the process similarly to hiring an agent. Interview multiple attorneys and proceed with the one that best meets your needs.

    Frequently asked questions

    1. Save for down payment
    2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage
    3. Choose your preferred North Dakota neighborhoods
    4. Partner with the right real estate agent in North Dakota
    5. Go house hunting
    6. Make a strong offer
    7. Inspections and appraisals
    8. Do a final walkthrough and close

    Yes, the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency offers first-time buyers an affordable loan and down payment assistance through its FirstHome program.

    To qualify, your household’s income and home purchase price must be within the limits set for your county. You must be using the newly-purchased home as a primary residence and contribute at least $500 towards the down payment.

    » READ: What are the top first-time homebuyer programs?

    Related links

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