American Heartland Escapes the Housing Bust

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In most U.S. cities, $115,000 won't buy much, but in places like Sioux Falls, S.D., Des Moines, Iowa, and Fargo, N.D., real estate remains relatively affordable. Median prices in heartland cities are about $140,000, and unlike in many big cities, houses here are holding their value.

Jesse Logterman, a 25-year-old Sioux Falls, S.D., homeowner, recently bought a three-story, 2,000-square-foot house for $115,000. Logterman's 91-year-old white clapboard home needs a little bit of work, but the problems are mainly cosmetic. The hardwood floors could use sanding, and when he moved in, there was a dilapidated wet bar in the basement that Logterman, a sound designer and musician, ripped out to make room for a recording studio.

"The electric was redone in 2005, as was the roof. So I thought, heck, for the price and the square footage, I thought it was a pretty good deal," Logterman said.

Debra Kirk has been selling real estate in Sioux Falls since 1994.

She says she keeps hearing news about the doom and gloom in the housing market, but she's not seeing it in Sioux Falls. The city is a good value, she said.

"We have an excellent school system, excellent medical community. There's arts and entertainment. It's very easy to find your way around town," Kirk said. "And if you want to get to a big city, Omaha is less than a three hours' drive to the south."

Barton Hacker moved to Sioux Falls two years ago from Washington D.C., and now heads up the local Realtors Association. Hacker acknowledges that Sioux Falls isn't going to attract 20-something hipsters who yearn for the fast pace of California or New York.

"But as those people get married, as they start to have kids, as they start to realize, 'Hey, I can't necessarily live in downtown Manhattan and do the things I want to do,'" Hacker said.

And while real estate prices collapse in other parts of the country, Hacker says Sioux Falls is on pace to break last year's record for the most houses sold — and at record-high prices for the area.

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