By Kevin Killough, Powell Tribune
Starting around the spring of 2020, the Big Horn Basin housing market began heating up. The sudden uptick in housing sales at a time COVID was creating a lot of economic uncertainty was a welcome sight.
Flash forward to today and realtors report that, while sales are cooling ever-so-slightly, they remain busy.
Travis Swenson, broker/owner of Metzler & Moore Realty, said it’s normal for the market to slow down this time of year.
“My prediction is that this spring it will light back up like a wildfire again,” Swenson said.
Swenson has nearly 20 years in the area’s real estate market, and said he’s never seen it like this. Typically, the Big Horn Basin has a very stable market because people who live here want to stay here. Things have changed in the past couple of years as a result of people moving to the area.
“It’s not the frenzy it was like it was in the spring and before,” said Eric Paul, broker/owner of Heart Mountain Realty, “but there’s still a lot of people coming in.”
Besides the usual relocators from northern Colorado and California, Paul is seeing more interest from Washington and Oregon — even some from the eastern United States.
Holly Griffin, broker/owner of The Real Estate Connection, is continuing to see buyers from outside Wyoming.
Griffin is seeing some difference from several months ago. Any house for sale $250,000 and under is gone in a flash, Griffin said, but buyers looking at houses $500,000 and up are seeing a bit more competition. Last year, the houses in that range would sell sight-unseen, but now buyers are giving the options some more scrutiny. Still, the properties are selling.
“The market still keeps going. It’s not coming to a stand-still at all,” Griffin said.
Swenson said he doesn’t see a lot of difference in sales along various price ranges. From $250,000 homes, which is pretty much the bottom of the market, up to $900,000, it all is selling pretty well.
Most of the people moving from other states are either retirees or people with families who have sold their first homes. Paul said it’s these second-tier buyers who have a lot of pent-up demand.
“There’s just not much out there for them right now,” Paul said.
First-time home buyers are not finding much on the market, either. They might get prequalified for a $175,000 home, but there’s not much in that price range. In the first week of October, the cheapest home in Powell was a $130,000 two-story townhome. The cheapest single-family home was $189,000.
John Parsons, co-owner of 307 Real Estate, said the market has slowed “just a tick” but people from other states are still showing interest in living in Wyoming.
307 Real Estate has offices in Buffalo, Sheridan, Cody, and Powell and “this whole corridor is extremely attractive to these out-of-town buyers,” Parsons said. “They’re looking for a quality of life.”
Cody Regional Health
Griffin said many of the out-of-state buyers are working remotely, so they have a lot of flexibility with where they live, as long as they have good internet. As such, the lack of inventory and high prices in Cody are pushing more interest into Powell; buyers who don’t find what they want here may look in Lovell and Greybull.
New houses, unfortunately, are not helping to meet the demand. Griffin said almost all new construction is custom homes, with little spec housing being constructed. She said that’s partly due to the high cost of creating subdivisions, as well as material costs. It’s a hard time to keep costs down.
“Those homes are definitely needed, but I don’t know where they’d go,” Griffin said.
Likewise, contractors are sometimes booked out for two years, leaving them little time to build on spec, even if they are so inclined.
Parsons said there are a handful of spec houses being built, but they’re off the market before they’re finished.
“If they [home builders] do start a spec home, by the time they get the foundation in the ground, it’s sold,” Parsons said.
Griffin said residents who don’t plan to sell and move out of the area are stuck in the homes they’re living in, so many are hiring contractors for home improvement projects.
Swenson said one thing that keeps the market rolling is that not everyone who moves to Wyoming stays in Wyoming. This opens up a few options here and there for buyers.
“People love the glamor of summertime Wyoming, but they don’t like the nastiness of wintertime Wyoming. So we help them move in and then a couple years later, we help them move out,” Swenson said.
Ultimately, the Big Horn Basin remains a sellers’ market, and realtors don’t see this ending any time soon.
“Inventory grows and the demand wanes a little bit, but it’s still very much a sellers’ market,” Paul said.
He added there’s about a month’s worth of inventory on the market, and it takes at least a few months’ worth to have a really stable market.
All in all, Paul said the slight cooling of the market is a good outcome — if it’s the result of more buyers finding homes and leaving more inventory on the market. If demand is falling because of rising interest rates or other pressures on the market, then it’s a problem.
“Less demand is never a good thing for the market,” Paul said.
For the foreseeable future, things look good for the area’s housing market — at least if you’re selling. Swenson said he thinks it will remain fast and busy for some time to come.
“All in all, I’m very optimistic about the real estate market,” he said. “I started when it was in a lull, so I know what it’s like when it’s slow. So, this is pretty nice.”