What Do Real Estate Agents Do When They Run Out of Inventory?

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

When a market is sold out, with no properties available for potential home buyers, what does a real estate agent in Wyoming do?

It’s not the leisurely life one might think, said three agents who spoke with Cowboy State Daily.

“Because inventory is so tight, they’re really having to dig deep to find listings, and to help buyers find those properties.” said Jim Hickey with Engel & Völkers Real Estate in Jackson Hole. “It’s like an Easter egg hunt. It’s very difficult because there’s just so little out there.”

“It’s very, very slim pickings right now,” said Zack Cummins, who is the chairperson for the Sheridan County Board of Realtors. “There were times I’ve worked in this market where we’ve had over 300 active listings, and I think, total active residential listings this year, we’re at 120, or something like that, which, a good portion of those are probably under contract. 

“I had one of my agents the other day tell me she had four pages of (potential buyers) … and couldn’t find anything to show them,” he added.

Hickey said in the last two years, his inventory in Sublette County has dwindled down to almost nothing.

“I had quite a few listings ranging from commercial property to vacant land, more ranch and recreational listings, and in the last two years, from the beginning of 2019 through 2021, we sold through the lion’s share of those,” Hickey said. “We’re down to a handful of single family lots in the subdivision, and a larger piece that either could be subdivided or create that sort of trophy ranch.”

“We’ve got a really good number of ranches that are under contract that will close this year,” said Mike Fraley, a realtor who primarily sells ranch property with Hall and Hall in the Buffalo/Sheridan region. “But we’re feeling like it’s a carryover from last year, and it’s unknown what the market will do this year. If there’s a desirable ranch or a ranch that’s on the market right now, if it’s still on the market, it’s probably two things: it’s overpriced, beyond what a buyer deems reasonable to dig into; or there’s some problems with it, it maybe has some easements or encumbrances or things that are not desirable.”

Additionally, the prices for the property that has sold has skyrocketed in the last couple of years, Hickey told Cowboy State Daily.

“We sold single family homes, or single family homes on some acreage, and then literally six months later, or not even a quarter later, similar property might come up … $100,000 or more in price,” Hickey said. “Sometimes they sold, sometimes it didn’t, but the prices were just moving up at a rate I can’t even explain.”

Cummins shared data that the Sheridan Board of Realtors recently compiled that showed from 2020 to 2021, the number of active residential listings declined from 950 to 857, about a 10% reduction. New listings dropped from 776 in 2020 to 748 in 2021, about a 4% reduction. 

The value of property sold during the year increased by 26%, which Cummins attributed to the increase in average sales price, as the number of properties sold increased by only 1%.

“And that’s because there was a 25% increase in average sales price,” he said. “The average sales price for 2020 was $323,790. In 2021, the average sales price for that year – and this is just residentially speaking – was $403,900.”

Because of the lack of inventory, realtors are turning to other methods to find properties to sell.

“I would say almost a third of our business, probably even a little more, has been what we call private listing stuff,” said Fraley. “Things that are not actively marketed. Maybe a high profile seller comes to us and says, ‘Hey, you know, I’m probably a seller at the right price point. I just want to keep it on the down low.’”

“I know realtors that are sending out mailings to neighborhoods that say ‘We’ve got buyers in your neighborhood,’” Cummins said.

There have been a few instances of “buyer remorse” that these agents have witnessed in the last year from buyers from outside Wyoming who purchased properties without having experienced a Wyoming winter.

“I’ve talked to one of my Bozeman partners,” said Fraley. “He said they’re starting to see some of these guys that came out in the COVID crunch and wanted some room, and now they’re out here and are like, ‘Huh, not quite the amenities and the weather I was thinking.’” 

“The most extreme example would have been July of 2020,” recalled Cummins. “We sold a nice residential house. And in October of that year, we had a week long cold snap that got to like, 10 below, 15 below, something like that. It was just crazy cold weather for October, and the gal from California that had bought the house in July, turned around and put it on the market in October. So, she didn’t last very long at all.”

Despite the lack of inventory, Hickey said that no one should be feeling sorry for real estate agents.

“Realtors have done very well buying and selling real estate for their clients lately,” he said. 

“Right now, all indications are there are still buyers,” said Fraley, “and there’s still cash out there and they’re trying to find someplace to put it. The inventory is the problem.”

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