Are Cody’s Rising Real Estate Prices Turning It Into ‘The Next Jackson?’

A real estate listing for a rustic six-bedroom house on 63 acres for $13.5 million near Cody is fueling a question people have been asking for years: Is Cody turning into the next Jackson?

AR
Andrew Rossi

March 10, 202411 min read

Richard Realty has listed a 63-acre property an hour’s drive from Cody along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway for $13.5 million.
Richard Realty has listed a 63-acre property an hour’s drive from Cody along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway for $13.5 million. (Courtesy Richard Realty)

Richard Realty has listed a 63-acre property an hour’s drive from Cody along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway for $13.5 million.

The six-bed, three-bath rustic home was built in 1999 and is surrounded by “millions of acres of National Forest" within easy driving distance of Cody and the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a buyer with that kind of capital. For many Cody residents, it’s another reminder that while plenty wealth passes through on the way to and from Teton County, much of it doesn’t stick around.

That’s while the $13.5 million property that may be an anomaly near Cody, it would be a run-of-the-mill listing on the other side of Yellowstone National Park in Jackson.

Cody’s the closest Wyoming community to the East Entrance of Yellowstone, and when its trends in real estate are compared to other areas close to a Yellowstone entrance, many people believe Cody today looks a lot like the not-too-distant past of Jackson, the billionaire's playground for the nation’s wealthiest county.

It’s a dilemma people in Cody are thinking more about: Is it becoming another Jackson? And if so, is that what locals want?

‘Alternative’ Jackson

Scott Richard owns Richard Realty in Cody, and said he doesn’t think his community will become the next Jackson. But Cody could become “the alternative Jackson,” and seems to be moving in that direction.

“Barring Yellowstone erupting, our housing market continues to climb,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “I guess, inevitably, that makes us the most explosive real estate market in the world if you want to joke about that.”

Richard, who just finished a term as president of Wyoming Realtors, said the reason for the ranch’s price is simply a question of size and location. It’s “a gold mine of a property” in an attractive area, especially compared to the exorbitant prices in and around Jackson.

“I often ask people, ‘Would you buy a 1-acre parcel surrounded by national forests just outside of Yellowstone National Park? And if you could, would that 1-acre parcel be worth $215,000 to you?” he said. “Most people would say yes. What you now have is 63 acres. That's where the price point comes into play.”

Richard has spoken to Jackson Realtors about the ranch, and their assessment is a similar property in their neck of the woods could probably command a price of $26 million to $30 million, at least.

If Cody is heading in the same direction as Jackson, it has plenty of ground to make up, Richard said, adding that part of the disparity between the Wyoming gateway communities is the perception of potential buyers.

“Every property is unique, but that particular property is so rare and would be hard to find anywhere else,” he said. “In Jackson Hole, most people are looking at that price point. If they realized what was capable just on the other side of Yellowstone, I think it would sell much faster than it has.”

Richard Realty has listed a 63-acre property an hour’s drive from Cody along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway for $13.5 million.
Richard Realty has listed a 63-acre property an hour’s drive from Cody along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway for $13.5 million. (Courtesy Richard Realty)

Playing The Price Point

But should it?

When the property is bought at its $13.5 million listing price, it won't alleviate a growing issue of Cody's housing affordability.

Richard is aware of the apprehensions of Cody residents. If the gateway community outside Yellowstone's South Entrance has become a battleground for land-owning billionaires, it’s only natural to expect a similar high-priced turf war outside the park’s East Entrance.

“Most people look at Jackson Hole as the billionaire's playground,” he said. “I've often heard that the billionaires are pushing the millionaires from Jackson into Cody. I don't see that as true. (I see it as) an alternative and a different option because there are two different types of lifestyles between Jackson and Cody.”

Richard doesn’t foresee a Jacksonesque makeover for Cody on the horizon. However, there’s no denying that home prices are starting to look eerily similar, and ticking up.

Expensive wheels are already in motion, and they tend to roll over onto people who don’t have nine figures in their bank accounts.

Premium Space

According to Zillow, the average home value in Jackson is just over $2 million, rising 12.1% over the past year. It’s been an astounding rise, considering home values were still under $1 million at the beginning of 2019.

Why is Jackson’s real estate so expensive? That’s a complex issue, Richard said, but one factor for it is particularly relevant to Cody’s future.

“Jackson Hole is surrounded by areas that can't be built on,” he said. “And so, people are building on top of existing structures. They're buying property, tearing it down and rebuilding. The cost is astronomically higher than it used to be.”

Meanwhile, Zillow places the current average home value in Cody at $467,082, up 7.6% over the past year. At the beginning of 2019, the average home value was less than $290,000.

Based on Zillow’s numbers, home values in Jackson have risen nearly 50% over five years, while home values in Cody have risen around 61.9%.

But unlike Jackson, there’s plenty of open space around Cody for future development. That should settle it, right?

Not quite, Richard said.

Cody might have the space, but it’s a complex landscape to navigate for contractors, and that complexity is increasingly costly.

“With tougher regulations, higher building costs and lack of motivation to grow, the prices have dramatically climbed over the years in Cody,” he said.

With a dearth of new housing development, that leaves just the existing homes in the Cody community. And low inventory always hikes prices.

“Cody’s not going to be entirely like Jackson Hole,” he said. “But if more isn't done to further the growth of this community, it very well could continue to climb in price point, just like Jackson Hole.”

Legacy Living

While Cody has plenty of space for future development, there’s a strong desire to keep that space as it is, now and for all time.

Richard said Wyomingites are paying the price for that mentality. He cited the $13.5 million property he’s now listing as a “conducive” example of what’s making Cody living more expensive.

“The seller was focused on it as a legacy property, something that has been held in a family for generations,” he said. “They would like to see it sold to someone who also can respect and appreciate the perceived value of what it is there and keep it intact in one piece.”

It’s a commendable goal, but problematic for the average person hoping to find something affordable in the region. Despite an influx of new residents, most people in northwest Wyoming don’t have $14 million to spend on a single property.

Conversely, dividing the 63 acres into multiple parcels available for development wouldn’t be a hard sell for Richard. He’s already been approached about it.

“There's been interest in that property, asking if it could be split apart and sold off in a development fashion,” he said. “If I were to split that property apart, how many people would buy a 1-acre parcel to build a cabin surrounded by thousands of acres of national forest right next to Yellowstone for $215,000? The answer to that would be a resounding yes.”

The seller wasn’t interested. So, the property remains on the market as an entire $13.5 million whole, with the legacy intact.

Most Wyomingites would applaud the seller’s resolve while lacking the money to acquire the legacy property themselves. That means a buyer is likely to come from elsewhere, and those buyers are already casting acquiring eyes on Cody.

  • A large rock fireplace and whole-log beams sets the tone for the living room area.
    A large rock fireplace and whole-log beams sets the tone for the living room area. (Courtesy Richard Realty)
  • The Western kitchen.
    The Western kitchen. (Courtesy Richard Realty)
  • The house on a 63-acre property near Cody that's listing for $13.5 million features high ceilings and plenty of wood.
    The house on a 63-acre property near Cody that's listing for $13.5 million features high ceilings and plenty of wood. (Courtesy Richard Realty)

The Usual Suspects

Housing has become a national issue everywhere people call home. Between high costs and high interests, Richard said home ownership is beyond the reach of most Americans.

“Around 78% of people can't afford to buy a home right now because of the high price and the high interest rates,” he said. “Something has to give, but the value is still there in those properties.”

A single ranch with a multimillion-dollar price tag isn’t the problem with Cody's property prices. There’s a thriving market for such high-priced properties in the region.

The market is the problem, at least when it comes to affordability, he said. In recent years, Richard has noticed two demographics migrating to and driving the rising prices in Cody.

“A lot of second homeowners move here,” he said. “Wyoming is attractive for tax purposes and tax benefits. And I believe Cody's No. 1 employer is Cody Regional Health, so there's a lot of medical facilities for retirees.”

Second-home owners and retirees have many reasons to find Cody attractive. They also tend to have millions of dollars to buy large legacy properties or the more modest, but pricy, homes in and around town.

Another undeniable similarity between Jackson and Cody is that neither community primarily relies on industry for economic growth. Tourism is the region's economic powerhouse, mainly thanks to the geologic juggernaut next door.

“The Yellowstone economy drives our industry here in Cody,” he said. “As long as Yellowstone exists, people will continue to come, and it remains a hot place for people to retire or have a second home.”

The Catch-22

Even if everything continues moving as it has, Richard still doesn’t believe Cody will become “the next Jackson.” But the price tags could look similar.

“I believe Cody is uniquely different than Jackson,” he said. “I don't think it will become like Jackson Hole. It's going to be an alternative, which would still increase the values in this area.”

This future isn’t inevitable, but curbing that has proven decidedly unpopular. In Richard’s view, Cody needs to support and encourage more development today to avoid a high-priced Jacksonian tomorrow.

“It's a Catch-22,” he said. “If you spur more development, you have more options and likely better price points with competition for people to afford homes and live here. I understand why people don't want Cody to expand or grow, and I can respect that.

“However, that also makes it harder for people to move here. And those who can are willing to pay a premium to call Cody home.”

The 63-acre property Richard is listing will eventually sell as a single property with a $13.5 million asking price. It will likely go to someone who sees the value in preserving the pristine acreage in the mountains but also has enough of their own value to do so.

“If that (property) was capable of being split up and sold into one acre or smaller parcels,” he said, “it could be sold very quickly versus one buyer who appreciates having a secluded, large tract of land right in the middle of that area. The whole point is it prices most people out of being able to afford a property like that.”

Richard understands the reluctance. He’s a fifth-generation Wyomingite himself, and he’d like his descendants to find an affordable life in the Cowboy State.

Development isn’t the answer most Wyomingites want to hear. In Richard’s opinion, they need to hear and heed it anyway. Jackson may have set the precedent, and Cody’s looking like the next in line.

“If you don't spur growth and development, it becomes less and less affordable to purchase and afford a home, especially for the people that work and live here,” he said. “If we don't do that, we must be prepared for those prices to continue climbing.”

Andrew Rossi can be reached at: ARossi@CowboyStateDaily.com

Richard Realty has listed a 63-acre property an hour’s drive from Cody along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway for $13.5 million.
Richard Realty has listed a 63-acre property an hour’s drive from Cody along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway for $13.5 million. (Courtesy Richard Realty)
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Andrew Rossi

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