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A surge of out-of-staters are fleeing major cities and purchasing homes in Montana, Wyoming and other parts of the Mountain West, according to real estate agents.
"These out-of-state buyers are just coming in droves," said D.J. Smith, president of the Missoula Organization of Realtors.
The evidence is anecdotal for now, but according to Smith, they are coming from mainly coastal states, such as New York, California, Oregon and Washington. Some are fleeing the pandemic or political turbulence and most are attracted to the region's comparably low housing prices. With the recent rise in telecommuting, people can keep their big city salaries while living in a less expensive town.
"They can purchase most of our homes with cash. They don't even need to pull out a new loan," Smith said. "It's definitely having an impact on our housing market."
The median listing price for homes has risen recently in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, according to the real estate valuation firm HouseCanary.
Missoula, along with Bozeman and other tourism hotspots in the Northern Rockies such as Jackson, Wyoming and Sandpoint, Idaho, have long attracted out-of-staters. But the recent surge is spreading to less popular towns as well, such as Billings, Montana.
"[Billings] is not the scenic place most people think of when they think of a Montana escape," said real estate agent Nancy Brook.
It's more known as a regional hub for the energy and railroad industries, surrounded by high-plains grassland. But after noticing an uptick of inquiries from out-of-staters during the beginning stages of the pandemic, Brook sent out an informal survey to other area agents to see if they were experiencing the same thing. More than 100 responded, nearly two-thirds of which said they were. Those inquiries are translating into house sales.
"A lot of people just do not want to have the impact of living in a large city. That's what I'm hearing from people," she said.
The survey also found that the folks who wanted to relocate to Billings already had family ties there or had lived in the town previously. About 25% said they wanted to move due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.