A long road home

Posted 4/30/21

Anyone who looks around town or the county can see that there has been an explosion in the demand for housing. According to Dave Reetz, a sales associate with The Real Estate Connection, the would-be …

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A long road home


Anyone who looks around town or the county can see that there has been an explosion in the demand for housing. According to Dave Reetz, a sales associate with The Real Estate Connection, the would-be residents are coming to this area for three reasons.

One is safety. Wyoming in general and Park County in particular are known for being relatively free of crimes associated with urban areas. Another reason is freedom, because they grew weary of restrictions and regulations where they were living. And they come back for family, whether they grew up here, or their family moved here after visiting. That family may extend to a church or close friends, Reetz said.

Powell is attractive to those looking to relocate because the schools are very good and housing is generally less expensive than in the Cody area. Many people are able to relocate now because COVID-19 created a certain mobility, allowing people to work from anywhere with an internet connection.

Meanwhile, Eric Paul, owner-broker at Heart Mountain Real Estate, said he has seen some other reasons for an influx of new residents.

“Yes, people come back, but we are seeing people from other places looking for the quality of life they had in smaller communities 15 or 20 years ago,” Paul said. “They want a way of living that resembles what they had.”

But the rush to relocate isn’t just impacting Wyoming; Reetz said it is seen all across the country. “This frenzy is everywhere. It’s almost like a panic mode,” he said. “It’s a different atmosphere than I’ve seen in 30 years.”

That panic mode mentality has meant some changes to the real estate buying process. Because of the jump in offers on properties the prospective buyer has never seen, the contracts have been amended.

“These sight-unseen offers are a phenomenon never done before,” Reetz said. His contracts now include a physical inspection clause to allow buyers to visit and approve a property before moving ahead. He also has added an all cash clause to the contracts because those purchases have skyrocketed as well, especially on land buys.

But that isn’t all that has headed to the stratosphere.

A search of houses available in town April 16 showed 23 results. Of those, three were still available, while 20 had contracts on them. One was a mobile home stripped to the studs and ready for a complete renovation, listed at $86,000, while the other two were $175,000-$180,000. 

A year ago, from April 2019 to April 2020, there were 115 home sales in the City of Powell (an average of about 9.5 per month). They sold for an average closing price of $200,556 and a median price of $183,000.

From October 2020 through April 2021, there were 69 home sales (about 11.5 per month). They sold for an average closing price of $228,796, up 14%, and a median price of $219,000, up 20%. The average seller got 100% of their asking price in that timeframe.

Days on the market plummeted to an average of 38 days, with eight days being the most common length of time on the market. That compared to a 78-day average a year ago, when 51 days was the most common length of time on the market.

Both Paul and Reetz were seeing a common theme. Residents who before COVID might have considered selling and purchasing a different home, whether larger or smaller, are hesitant to list their properties because in the event of a rapid sale, which is very likely, they might not be able to find a new home to purchase.

“We’re in a gridlock,” Paul explained. “There used to be move-up buyers and move-down buyers. Now the owners [of $200,000 homes] aren’t selling because there is very little to buy and prices have escalated.”

Numbers supplied by Reetz showed amazing changes in sales of out of town properties.

From April 2019 to April 2020, 76 rural properties sold, with an average selling price of $322,411. The most common sales price was $305,000 and the average days on the market was 97.

From October 2020 to April 2021, the average selling price, among 27 transactions, rose a whopping 46%, to $472,278. The median price — the one seen most often — was $425,000, an increase of 39%.

Besides price hikes and listing rarity, there are other issues that trouble Reetz.

“We have no rentals. There is no affordable workforce housing, places for teachers, cops or city employees and health care workers to live,” he said.

Additionally, the crazy high prices have increased the pressure on landowners to sell moderately sized parcels for homesites, taking productive agricultural land out of the equation. Those mid-sized blocks are necessary, Reetz said, so that a well can be drilled and be far enough away from the septic system to comply with codes. The wells are becoming a necessity because there are next to no connections available for houses on the Northwest Rural Water District lines between roughly Ralston and Deaver. 

“There are no small pieces of land or lots,” Reetz said. “Not on the rural side. What we need are concentrated developments on rural land undesirable for agriculture.”

But without water, there can be no small cluster developments. The water district has plans to apply for grant funding to increase the storage capacity in the red-hot market area south and east of Powell. But that grant must work through government channels and the increased capacity won’t be in place until late 2023, according to Tony Rutherford, general manager at NWRWD.