Home values holding up in Powell so far

Posted 3/31/09

“It's hard for us to say anything right now,” said Rich Cook of Cook Appraisals. “I've only seen five or six sales since the first of the year. The number of sales is down and they're taking longer.”

Mary Lou Cummings of …

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Home values holding up in Powell so far


The national decline in home values hasn't affected Wyoming yet, and while buyers may face tougher requirements to obtain a home loan, loans are still available.However, although sellers are still receiving 94 percent or more of their asking price, homes are staying on the market longer and sales are down, according to two appraisers working in Powell.

“It's hard for us to say anything right now,” said Rich Cook of Cook Appraisals. “I've only seen five or six sales since the first of the year. The number of sales is down and they're taking longer.”

Mary Lou Cummings of Appraisal West also said sales have slowed. She said last May, 15 sales closed and homes were on the market an average of 72 days in Powell

“After that, the number of closed sales declined on a pretty regular basis,” Cummings said. “There was a spring back in October, but in November there were only three closes.”

Cummings said it isn't unusual that the market “goes still, whenever we have a major election,” and that January and February are typically slow. Last month was “not that different from typical,” she said, but homes were on the market an average of 144 days, nearly twice as long as in May.

The longer time on the market translates into bigger inventories, and that might lead some to reduce their prices.

“People may be getting fretful and they're lowering their prices. I don't think it's necessary, but others are thinking it's been too high,” she said. “I don't know if lower prices are hurrying sales.”

Cummings said newer homes are least affected by downturn, while out of town properties are selling more slowly.

Both Cummings and Cook said sellers are still receiving an average of 94 percent or more of their asking prices when they close.

“We're not seeing any real deep declines in prices yet,” Cook said.

Bob Moore at Metzler and Moore Realty said the market has slowed in the area, and there is more inventory, but, like Cook and Cummings, noted that this is typically a slow time of the year for real estate.

“In Cody we've seen some dropping of asking prices, but we haven't seen that in Powell,” Moore said.

Like Cook and Cummings, Moore said real estate sales are slow at this time of year, making it difficult to say with certainty what's happening in the market.

“This spring and summer I can tell you more accurately,” Moore said.

County Assessor Doug Brandt said his office has not seen a decline in home values.

“What I am seeing, based on last year's numbers, is that there are fewer transfers, but they're still holding values,” Brandt said.

Brandt said he has received calls from individuals asking if the housing situation will result in lower taxes, but that won't happen this year. While Brandt said some home owners are lowering their asking prices, those prices are still more than the values his office has applied to homes, so the lower asking prices will not lower this year's tax assessments.

“We're finally getting the values up to where they were selling before,” Brandt said.

Nationally, the housing crisis has triggered a shortage of available money for loans, but that isn't a factor locally.

Chris Cox, manager of Bank of the West in Powell, said there has not been a big change in the number of loans the bank has made recently.

“People may be holding off in applying for loans, but it's not a huge dip,” Cox said.

Cox said his bank always has been conservative in issuing loans and hasn't changed its guidelines for granting mortgages.

Bart Langemeier of Red Lodge, Mont., president of the company that includes Bank of Powell, said his company is “still making loans.”

“We have a lot of money to loan out for mortgages,” Langemeier said.

Like Cox, Langemeier said his banks, like most Wyoming- and Montana-based banks, are cautious in issuing loans and haven't tightened their requirements, and he has seen only a slight decrease in the number of requests for loans.

Langemeier also said home values probably aren't declining as much in the area as they are nationally because they didn't increase as much in previous years.

“While everyone else in the U.S. was receiving big increases, in Wyoming, we didn't, so the declines aren't as big,” Langemeier said.

Some potential buyers will be affected by the current banking situation, though, said Cummings.

“First-time home buyers will have to have higher credit scores,” Cummings said. “People have gotten themselves into a situation where they're credit poor, and it will take longer for them to afford a first home.”

On the other hand, lower interest rates have brought on a refinancing boom, Cook said, which is keeping appraisers active.

Down the road, though, Moore said the economic downturn may well come to Wyoming, particularly if there is a decline in oil and gas drilling.

“I'm hearing through the rumor mill about layoffs in the oil industry,” Moore said. Recalling another time when a decline in the oil industry impacted the Wyoming economy, Moore said, “It reminds me of the ‘80s.”

Cook also expressed concern for the employment situation, and said it is difficult to predict how the current recession ultimately will affect Wyoming, because “we haven't seen a national economy like this in our lifetime.”