If you were looking to move to the metro region with the highest rental prices in the country, don't expect an active social life. That distinction goes to Williston, North Dakota, an oil boom town in the western part of the state. And what do you get for your average rent of about $2,400 a month? Probably not $2,400 worth of living.
ApartmentGuide.com compiled the data on the most expensive metro areas that put Williston at the top. They also made this handy map, which shows the prices in various metropolitan areas. It's kind of a cheat; New York City is almost certainly pricier than Williston, but the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island region, combined, is not.
Curious about what these Williston properties looked like, these ones that cost so much money, I went to Craigslist to see what was available.
The first thing that you notice in doing so is that many of the properties appear to be brand new, just coming onto the market. (Or: "Coming soon to Williston !!") Here's a three-bedroom apartment that runs $3,450 a month. The only images that are available are floorplans. Here's what the site looks like on Google Street View; it is across the street from an RV park.
Apartments at Prairie Pines, another complex, go for $2,890 for a two bedroom. At least one building in the complex appears to have been completed, though there are no interior pictures on Craigslist. (There are some on the company's website, including many of the gym.) It's two blocks from the airport.
Another entry is pre-leasing new three- and four-bedroom homes that are available in the spring. There's a preview of what the homes' kitchen/dining room/living rooms will look like in the listing; it's at right. No price is listed.
Somewhat nicer is this three-bedroom apartment, which is both 1) built and 2) available, located just off a highway in the more populated part of town. It is $3,000 a month. For $2,000 a month, you could also live in a studio apartment in what appears to be a residency hotel.
If you're looking to save even more money, you can get a three-bedroom, two-bath place with air conditioning once it becomes available in a month or two. It is only $1,200 a month, and is also a mobile home.
If all of this seems … unusual, that's because it is. North Dakota — and in particular, this western part of the state — has been the fastest growin state in the country for several years. That's because it sits on top of the Bakken shale formation, a bit of rock that, when fracked, releases natural gas and oil. Oil companies have poured into the region, hiring up everyone they can find en route. And that's meant that every possible housing option is stuffed full of oil men.
They're building new complexes in the middle of the prairie precisely because they can fill them up before the paint is dry. Supply and demand laws at work: more natural gas from the Bakken dropped market prices; fewer homes for the guys drilling shot home prices up.
One final note, if you're looking to explore the red-hot Williston rental market. Some of the other amenities that have resulted from the population boom include:
- A heavily-strained health care infrastructure
- A spike in crime
- An uncomfortable environment for women
But when you're paying the highest rental prices in the country, you have to expect some sort of downside.