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Montana housing market booming, but who's moving here?

Montana housing market booming, but who's moving here? (Photo: NBC Montana){p}{/p}
Montana housing market booming, but who's moving here? (Photo: NBC Montana)

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The Montana housing market has been booming since the pandemic began last year.

Paulette McMannis, a real estate broker for Berkshire Hathway Home Services, said it's a difficult time to be in the industry but not impossible to find homes for clients.

McMannis said Montana's housing shortage began years ago, but it was exacerbated by the pandemic.

"A couple years ago, we had a shortage of housing going into the pandemic. So now, with so many people moving back to Montana and moving to Montana, along with our regular buyers, who are moving around within the market, there's just a lot of buyers and not that many homes," she said.

Since this time last year, the median sale price for a home in Missoula increased 20.5%, to $403,450. In Whitefish, the cost has increased 41%, for a price of $632,000. The median sales price in Butte is $180,000, which is an annual increase of 12%. In Bozeman, the median sales price of a home increased 25%, to $679,900.

McMannis said the increase in prices is simply due to supply and demand. There are more buyers than houses, and with multiple offers on a property, prices increase even more.

So who is moving to Montana and why? According to McMannis and other agents at her firm, most people they interact with have some sort of previous tie to Montana and are moving here because they can work remotely thanks to the pandemic.

According to a study conducted by MSU Billings, around 43% of out-of-state buyers surveyed said they moved to Montana to be closer to family. 36% said they're originally from Montana. The biggest reasons people are coming here are safety, security and COVID-19 concerns.

According to the same study, 75% of real estate agents surveyed got interested buyers from California, 56% from Washington and 49% from Colorado.

A place that isn't on that list is Kansas, which is where Wendy Mills and Harby Howell moved from. The couple now lives in Billings.

Howell is a Montana native. He was born and raised in Belgrade.

"Where I grew up in Belgrade, it was completely different. I graduated in '80. It was around 2,000 people, and now it's around 12,000," said Howell.

The two moved to Kansas to take care of Howell's elderly parents. His mother passed away from COVID-19 in October. They said they knew they wanted to return to Montana after her passing.

Upon researching the housing market, they quickly found it would be much more expensive to find a home in Montana comparable to the one they owned in Kansas.

They decided to rent an apartment until the perfect home becomes available. They said they're willing to wait, and, for now, they're just happy to be in Montana and close to their children again.

According to McMannis, these types of situations are happening a lot. If you're looking to get into the housing market, she encourages a lot of patience and offered these tips:

  • Find a lender and get your finances together
  • Find a realtor to help lay out your plans
  • Keep expectations realistic

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