"I learned more about the economy from one South Dakota dust storm than I did in all my years of college." -- Hubert Humphrey
South Dakota is one of the "bread basket" states in the Midwestern region of the United States; historically, it has been defined by agriculture and rural lifestyles. Today, the economy is more diverse as the state seeks to attract and retain residents by branching out into biomedical research and alternative energy fuels. The state is named for the Dakota and Lakota Sioux tribes of Native Americans that were dominant in the area by the early 19th century. Today, South Dakota remains one of the least densely populated states in the U.S., even though the geographical area is one of the largest of all the states--great news for those introverts among us. South Dakota and North Dakota both became states in 1889, following the Black Hills gold rush and the railroad construction that took place late in the 19th century. The state is bordered by North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, Wyoming, and Minnesota.
City or Suburbs?
If the glitz and nightlife offered by large cities are main considerations for you, you might reconsider South Dakota as your future home--the state is predominantly agricultural land, though it's home to a few cities too. Sioux Falls, the state's largest city, offers your best shot at urban life. Perched in the southwest corner of the state, Sioux Falls is known for its contributions to the healthcare, finance, and retail sectors.
If solitude and wide-open spaces are more your speed, South Dakota will be perfect for you! With one of the lowest population densities in the country, this state is ideal for folks interested in farming (or just gardening), hunting, fishing, outdoor sports, and good old peace and quiet.
House or Apartment?
House hunters and apartment hunters alike will relish in the selections South Dakota has to offer. Both apartments (1- and 2-bedroom) and freestanding houses cost less here than elsewhere in the nation, and the tax rates are lower here, as well.
How to Prepare
Before setting off for a showing, make sure you have all your paperwork in order. Bring your photo ID, bank statements (or other proof of employment), rental references, and checkbook to any appointments you make.
Pierre is the state capital and is located smack-dab in the center of the state; it was founded opposite Fort Pierre in 1880, and it's the county seat of Hughes County. Pierre's population, per the 2010 census, was 13,646, making it the smallest state capital other than Montpelier, Vermont. The city has a pint-sized airport and is 34 miles from the nearest interstate, I-90. It retains a lot of small-town charm and has a very low crime rate. Interested in living in Pierre? Plan to begin your search for apartments a few months ahead of your move.
Sioux Falls is South Dakota's largest city. It had a population of 153,888 during the 2010 census, with the metropolitan area containing 238,122 during the same census. The local economy currently focuses on finance, retail, and healthcare, though it used to be known for agribusiness. Housing here is plentiful across the board. Start your search for a town home, studio, or one-bedroom apartment a few weeks in advance of your moving date.
Rapid City is located on the eastern edge of the Black Hills and has a tourism-fueled economy--Black Hills gold, anyone? It's the state's second-largest city with a metropolitan area population of 124,766 (2010 census). If you're planning to move here, start your housing hunt early--this town draws a good number of vacationers and temporary residents. Start your hunt at least a month in advance (perhaps two, just to err on the side of caution).
Additional larger cities in the state include Brookings and Vermillion, where the state's two largest colleges are located (South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota, respectively). Aberdeen, Watertown, Mitchell, Yankton, and Huron are also noteworthy towns. It should be mentioned that of the ten largest cities, nine of them are located east of the Missouri River, so if you need an apt for rent, the eastern half of the state will offer far more choices.
Geography and Outdoor Activities
Geographically, the state is divided roughly in half by the Missouri River; residents call the halves "East River" and "West River." The vast majority of the state's population live (and often farm) in the flatlands of the eastern half of the state. West of the river, ranching is more common and the economy depends more heavily on tourism and defense spending. Besides the Missouri River, the state is home to the Cheyenne, Big Sioux and White Rivers, along with four large reservoirs created by dams on the Missouri River, offering lots of areas for swimming, boating and other water sports fun.
Southwestern South Dakota--say that four times fast!--is home to the Black Hills, which are low mountains covered in pine trees. The southwest region hosts many other tourist attractions, including Wind Cave and the Badlands parks, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, and the historic town of Deadwood.
South Dakota is, for the main part, covered by grasses and crops, with deciduous elm trees, cottonwoods and willow trees growing near the rivers and in more sheltered areas. Nature lovers will be pleased by the state's selection of wildlife; your backyard may be home to bison, coyotes, pronghorn, prairie dogs, or deer. In addition, the area is home to a growing amount of American bald eagles and ring-necked pheasants, the latter of which were brought from China. The rivers and lakes are filled with carp, pike, bass, walleye, and a fish with prehistoric roots, the uniquely named paddle fish.
South Dakota has four distinct seasons, with moderate precipitation in the east and a semi-arid climate in the west. Summertime sees daily highs near 90 degrees all over the state, with nighttime temperatures settling in the more pleasant 60-degree range. The summer is also marked by severe hot, dry spells. Frequent, severe summer thunderstorms are common, and the area is considered to be part of Tornado Alley with an average of 30 tornadoes per year. Winter usually means very cold weather; January and February can often see temperatures average below 10 degrees. Snow, ice, and abundant space heaters are facts of life here, at least during the five-odd months of winter.
Apartment List has released results for South Dakota from the second annual Apartment List Renter Satisfaction Survey. The survey, which drew on responses from over 30,000 renters, provides insight into what states and cities must do to meet the needs of the 105 million American renters nationwide.
“South Dakota renters were very satisfied with the state overall,” says Andrew Woo, Director of Data Science at Apartment List. “Many categories received A+ scores, while some others were below average.”
Key findings in South Dakota include the following: