The sisters grew up on the lake, which boasts 27 miles of jagged shoreline and thick woods in the remote area along the Canadian border just north of Bottineau. They spent winters listening to the distant buzz of snowmobiles and summer weekends seeing friends and family.
The two remember the lake surrounded by many small, family cabins. But now those small cabins are becoming overshadowed by homes costing several hundred thousand dollars and a rapid increase in people moving to the lake.
“I loved it when there wasn’t bigwigs on the lake. Now there is a lot of money up here,” Kringen said. “It’s not how it was when we grew up. There are some huge cabins now.”
The sisters said they don’t know what caused the lake’s secret to get out, but guess the oil boom had something to do with it.
“If you would have known how much it (would) cost today, you could have bought a whole bay,” Kringen said. “You’re lucky if your family had a cabin before it hit, even if you’re unlucky to pay the taxes on it now.”
Lenny McGuire, a broker and owner of Turtle Mountain Real Estate, said there is no normal home value around the lake anymore.
He said many older homes and cabins are being purchased and torn down for more expensive homes, causing the assessments of older homes to increase tremendously. The cost of a foot of lakefront property has increased rapidly, going for about $2,700 a foot compared with about $700 in 2005, he said.
He said that in 2005, the total assessed value at the lake was about $39 million, and a year later it climbed to $100 million. Now it’s approaching $300 million, he said.
The Turtle Mountain Real Estate website lists one home on the lake for sale at $2.68 million. A lot of less than one acre and 136 feet of lakefront is listed for $395,000.
McGuire isn’t sure why so many have flocked to the lake recently, but he does know there has been a growing interest by Oil Patch workers, and the farm economy has been strong, too.
“We’re at a point right now where we have people that want to be here, and have reasons to be here,” he said.
Glenore Gross has been the Roland Township clerk and treasurer for the past 12 years, keeping track of building permits issued to residents around the lake.
In 2007, the township issued 45 permits totaling just over $2 million, with 14 dedicated to new dwellings totaling just over
$1.7 million — carrying an average estimated price of $142,000.
Since 2010, the township has issued 182 building permits, with 56 of them for new dwellings and the rest for sheds, garages, decks and commercial buildings. The number of permits jumped between 2011 and 2012 from 42 permits to 69.
“Every year you think this is probably the most we are going to get and it’s going to go down, but that has not happened,” Gross said.
The total estimated value of the projects in 2012 was $5.4 million, with
$4.6 million of that just for new homes. The highest estimated cost for a new dwelling was $600,000.
This year, the township issued a permit for a new home estimated at
“Our area has a real problem with how the property taxes get worked up with how these properties are going up,” she said.
But while millions of dollars have poured into the area lately, Kringen and Stanley, who have moved away but spend most weekends at their parents’ cabin, say it’s still a friendly lake, with many small cabins and trailers still found mingled in between new homes.
Small cabin owners “are not giving up, not giving in,” Kringen said.
But the increasing property values also can cause a dilemma for families. Siblings sometimes inherit a cabin, but one or more of them may have moved out of the area and will be motivated to sell. A sibling closer to the lake may want to hang on, but can’t afford to buy out other family members.
Not just Metigoshe
State Tax Commissioner Cory Fong said the sharp jump in property values is an issue at any lake or river around the state, and has been a topic of discussion before the State Board of Equalization.
“I recognize the issues, but they have to recognize they have a premium piece of property,” said Fong, secretary of the Board of Equalization.
Fong said the increased waterfront property values and assessments have created some discussion at the state level to create a new class of property for tax purposes.
Right now, there are four classifications: residential, commercial, agriculture and centrally assessed. The discussion dove into the possibility of creating a recreational class for properties such as a lake cabin, but Fong said he fears a new class would cause taxes on cabins to increase.
According to Robin Freidig, owner of Real Estate 7 in Devils Lake, she also has been selling more higher-priced homes than usual, attributing it to higher incomes and increased property values.
She said the oil boom has had an overall positive impact on the state, creating a ripple effect on everybody to some degree, but she hasn’t seen many Oil Patch workers buying up lake homes.
“The economy is doing well, therefore people are moving into bigger homes and second homes or buying lake properties,” she said. “People are always looking for lakefront properties. Everyone is drawn to the water and wants something around the lake.”
But on Devils Lake, it can be difficult to find property because of the high demand and flooding.
Ramsey County Tax Director Jerry Ratzlaff said the overall values and available land fluctuate seasonally as the water levels go up and down, with flooding washing out some properties and leaving potential buyers skeptical.
He said buildable lakeshore lots, above 1,460 feet in elevation, sell up to $1,000 per foot on the lake, leading a 2,000-square-foot home selling for about $450,000.
“The supply and demand is out of sync,” he said. “We don’t have a supply of lots for the demand, so it’s driving the prices up.”
Toward the west, Gary Emter, Mercer County director of tax equalization, said Lake Sakakawea has seen a large influence from the Oil Patch, and property and home values are going up.
“There seems to be a whole lot more money in this area right now for obvious reasons,” he said.
Emter said it’s difficult to find an average cost of lakefront land along Lake Sakakawea because a county ordinance requires a landowner to have two acres. But he said it’s typical to see a two-acre plot going for $50,000 to $90,000.
About 30 acres of land adjacent to the Lake Sakakawea shoreline got $405,000 at an auction June 13 in Williston, or about $13,500 an acre.
The land is 26.7 miles east of Williston and borders the U.S. Corps of Engineers shoreline. It was advertised as a possible site for multiple homes or a private residence.
Auctioneer Steve Krutzfeldt of SK Realty in Billings, Mont., said he decided to sell the lake property in an auction because it was hard to put a value on it.
“We couldn’t find any comparable properties given that it’s fairly tightly held,” Krutzfeldt said. “It’s hard to find them.”
Farmland value also increasing
Lakefront property isn’t the only North Dakota land seeing its value rise. Land, in general, has been increasing over the years.
According to a January county-level survey commissioned by the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands, the average per-acre value of cropland in the north-central part of the state grew by almost $1,000 between 2007, when it was $541 per acre, and 2013, hitting $1,517.
Cropland along the north Red River Valley jumped from $1,059 in 2007 to $3,427 this year. The south Red River Valley increased from $1,443 in 2007 to $4,180 in 2013.