An international health crisis has taken center stage in every mind and media outlet lately. While Covid-19 is certainly cause for alarm and to pay attention, the real estate market sales numbers in Gallatin County haven't clearly been affected by the virus. While business is being conducted a little differently, transactions and the home building industry continue at a breakneck pace and things don't seem to be slowing at all.
Covid-19 has affected many Montanan’s livelihoods and our ability to interact with each other. One would assume that real estate in Gallatin County would follow suit but surprisingly, that isn’t really the case. How is social distancing impacting home sales and prices in Gallatin County? Well, not much. While open houses and showings might look a little different the number of overall home sales and average prices doesn’t seem to be taking much of a hit.
Spring in Montana in recent years has meant a bump in real estate activity and 2020 doesn’t seem to be any different. In looking at comparative data provided by the Gallatin Association of Realtors the number of single family home listings continued to rise 27.8% above new home listings from the previous year. The number of condos and townhouse listings was up in March 2020 a full 44.6% above 2019. The supply and demand model has been playing out in Southwest Montana for a while so those inventory numbers shouldn’t really be shocking. What is most surprising in this new Covid-19 aware world is that median single family home prices have gone up slightly, during a pandemic, to $485,000. At this time last year that number sat at $447,900.
Two months ago the Gallatin Valley sat at historic lows for unemployment rates. Several businesses had shuttered due to a lack of available work force. The lack of workforce housing as well as competitive wages for service workers were hot topics. Suddenly in mid-March Covid-19 and its affect on the world and our country was starting to affect how Montanan’s moved about. Travel restrictions and a stay-at-home order were put in place by Governor Bullock on March 28, to help flatten the rate of infection or the “Curve” until our healthcare system could prepare for an onslaught of patients needing critical care. Unemployment numbers skyrocketed and that stay-at-home order limited which business sectors were required to close temporarily and which were considered essential. Construction, and more specifically housing construction and real estate sales, are included in the list of essential services.
Total home sales closed in the last two months were identical to the numbers from 2019. February saw 32 closed home sales and March saw 41. So, in response to this global health crisis there was clearly no decline in activity in Gallatin Valley housing sales. Screening potential buyers before doing an official showing in person, while practicing social distancing, has also saved time and resources for our area real estate professionals. The numbers of offers coming from buyers for properties that are essentially sight-unseen (other than virtually) has increased as well and according to one local agent, “the game has changed, but it’s still game on for us”. Precautions have been taken to keep both buyers and sellers safe and advances in technology have provided amazing resources for client interaction including virtual open houses and showings, video client meetings, e-signing documentation and closings being handled differently.
Danni Peters, an Escrow Closing Officer with American Land Title Company in Bozeman says they are working hard to make sure people understand they will do everything they can to accommodate buyers because, “We want to make sure everybody feels safe”. Their team is wearing gloves and masks as well as offering options to consumers to sign documentation from their vehicles with an agent available for any questions. They are also offering an internal option she referred to as a closing room. This room has been set aside to closings, sits at the entrance to their office to prevent clients from having to walk past employees, and the space is disinfected before and after each use.
The world of real estate in Southwest Montana will continue to shift and modify to meet the needs of current residents and the influx of people looking for their own Montana dream. Despite recent challenges, Montanan’s have always been a hearty bunch and we’ll continue to be optimistic. Our local real estate professionals will be happy to help you find your perfect home because we all still know that the Bozeman area continues to be a great place to live, raise a family and make a living.