MISSOULA — UPDATE: 11:15 a.m. - May 27, 2021
MISSOULA - Missoula residents have been telling us since even before the COVID-19 pandemic that they can't find a place to live.
Just last week, you heard the experiences of two renters struggling to find housing due to low inventory and ever-increasing prices.
The Missoula Organization of Realtors (MOR) says strong demand for housing is leading to the highest number of homes sold in decades -- on top of the lowest number of homes actually available.
The median sales price, or middle value, of a Missoula home rose to $420,000 at the end of the first quarter of 2021. That's a 20% increase from the 2020 price of $350,000.
But it isn't just Missoula experiencing the jump. We are behind only Bozeman where the median price surged over $600,000.
Meanwhile, Kalispell beats even Billings -- Montana's most populous city -- with a price of $400,000. Glendive has the lowest median price for Montana's largest cities.
For life-long Missoula resident Madison Bell, trying to buy her first home has been a long, frustrating ordeal.
"I learned after about three months of being in it that it would be this hard, but I never expected this in Missoula," said Bell.
"There's definitely been some tears," she added.
After two offers, seven months of searching, and no bites, Bell is finally under contract on a new house.
"It all happened at a good time, at a chaotic time—we're getting married in a month."
Madison and her fiance want some extra space to start a family soon and let their dog run around. They'll end up paying about $135,000 more than they intended, but it's worth it to them if it means staying in her hometown.
"One of the most heartbreaking struggles throughout this whole process was maybe not living here," Bell said. "We're that local economy, we've been working here, I've been working here since I was 16, and I was like, I don't know if I can swing it, I don't know if I can find a house. To have your whole life, imagine that you live here, and have that taken away from you, that's where all the tears came from."
Missoula's prices have been growing steadily over the years. Back in 2001, the median price was only $138,000 and just ten years ago, that price sat at $205,000.
But it's the past year's surge that has created the lack of housing. MOR says historically low interest rates and a 9.1% decline in home listings add to the growing crisis.
Those combinations mean Missoula homebuyers will be working overtime to find a place to call home.
"Hopefully this all works out, because there's so many moving boxes in my house," Bell laughed.
(first report: 10:02 a.m. - May 26, 2021
A new report released by the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® (MOR) shows the local housing market is still seeing strong demand and a tightening supply of homes for purchase and rent.
According to MOR, the median sales price of a Missoula home rose from $350,000 in 2020 to $420,000 at the end of the first quarter of 2021.
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“Median” describes the point at which half the sales are above that price and half are below.
Historically low-interest rates and continuing population growth provided for significant local housing demand last year, according to the report.
Additionally, MOR notes “exacerbating the supply shortage” was a drop of 9.1% in home listings while single-family building permits were down 18% and new building lot creation was 40.9% below the seven-year average in the City of Missoula.
The MOR report shows similar to the home market, vacancy rates for rentals remained between 1.0% and 3.1% for 2020, with average rents increasing 6.7%.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.