Local real estate market strong throughout 2021

The pandemic prompted many people to leave large cities in search of more rural setting. That, coupled with low interest rates, meant the real estate markets in Montana, including Glendive, were hot last year.
Hunter Herbaugh Ranger-review Staff Writer
Sunday, January 9, 2022
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A wall at Montana East Realty displaying properties for sale shows a lower inventory than the area has seen in past years. Hunter Herbaugh photo

The Glendive real estate market saw another strong year in 2021 according to local realtors, as people continue to relocate after nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic-spurred momentum started in 2020 as people began leaving large cities and moving into smaller communities. Montana has proven to be a popular destination for many, especially the western side of the state, but the Glendive market has seen its fair share of activity as well.

“For us, personally, it was probably the best year that I’ve ever had. We sold commercial property, we sold land, we sold houses,” said Lisa Kjelstrup with United Country Real Estate. “In my opinion, I credit it all to the Coronavirus and as much as it sucks, that’s what spurred our market.”

The pandemic also had some unexpected effects that also made buying homes more appealing, including lower interest rates. Rates fell in 2020 due to the pandemic and though they rose a bit through 2021, they still remain considerably low. Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages varied between 3% and 3.8% this week.

“It really hasn’t slowed down here, this is just so not normal. We’re heading into what is normally our best part of the year, February through May, and interest rates are still currently good, we still got a revolving door with our inventory and so there’s still some really good buys out there, so I’m not seeing things change. I’m still getting calls and I was throughout the holidays, which is a little unusual,” said Rita Stortz of Montana East Realty.

People moving into the community is definitely still what is generating most business for local agents. Much like in 2020, Stortz noted that technology has allowed out of state buyers to view homes easier without personally being there, so there are still plenty of properties being sold without the buyer seeing it in person.

However, it’s not just people coming from out of state. There has also been plenty from the Western side of Montana, trying to get away from the rapid growth that is happening there as more people move into that area, and there has also been plenty of people moving around inside the community, with current residents either downsizing to smaller residences or upgrading to larger homes.

With so much activity, it’s difficult to point to just one trend that is fuelling the active market.

“We were getting a lot of moving in, in my opinion, and some people in Glendive were either downsizing to smaller homes or upgrading. We didn’t have a whole lot of people moving out of town I don’t feel,” noted Eric Smeltzer of Smeltzer Auctions and Realty.

However, all this activity has also had a noticeable effect on what is available, as inventories are being kept low. Kjelstrup noted that at the beginning of last year, she had around 110 properties available, but more recently her available inventory is in the low 40s.

According to Smeltzer, many of the clients he has worked with have been interested in move-in ready homes or homes with only a single level, which he noted are hard to find in the community.

Stortz noted that the quick pace of the market has also resulted in a lot of the inexpensive properties in town getting taken up quickly.

Barbara O’Dea, a realtor for Realty One, also noted that prices on homes have increased somewhat due to the demand, so that has also put some properties into a higher price range.

These inventory strains affect everyone, but may be most notable to first-time home buyers, who generally look for less expensive properties. With interest rates still low, the past year has served as a good chance for first-time buyers, so these challenges were quite visible to some.

“I worked with a few (firsttime buyers), and their process was pretty seamless, they were great to work with. It is a little bit more difficult to find things in their price range, the clients that I worked with, just because I think some of the prices in the market are a little bit higher than they used to be, some homes are selling for a little bit more than they used to, so it’s tough on first-time home buyers with their budgets, but it wasn’t like there wasn’t anything for them, they were just a bit more limited,” O’Dea said.

However, O’Dea added that local financial institutions are generally helpful in finding solutions for clients, so there is help available if buyers are running into financial hurdles.

“We try to recommend local lenders to our clients for that exact purpose, because our local lenders are great to work with and at finding solutions for clients,” she said.

It is difficult to predict if this momentum will carry out through another year though. Currently, there has been a slight slow down due to winter, but how the spring will look will depend on what factors are in play at that time, something that is difficult to assume given the events of the past couple of years, but if interest rates remain consistent, it could be another busy season.

“It’s gonna depend on interest rates a lot of it, in my opinion,” Smeltzer said. “It’s too many variables, but interest rates being the one that if they stay where they’re at, our market should stay strong.”

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

“For us, personally, it was probably the best year that I’ve ever had. We sold commercial property, we sold land, we sold houses,”

Lisa Kjesltrup, United Country Real Estate