Is Missoula the "next San Francisco?"

MISSOULA – Missoula’s housing crisis is now making national headlines as the median home price surpasses $500,000.

A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at the data changes over the pandemic and found Missoula at the top of the list of cities with the biggest changes in home value and inventory.

Reporter Kellie Hwang said people are looking for more remote areas, “whether it’s living close to water, or the mountains, or the forest, I think there is that desire to increase your quality of life.”

The San Francisco based journalist told MTN News the Bay Area has long been one of the most expensive places to buy a home in the country, “there’s not a lot of new housing, there’s some pretty restrictive zoning laws, just a lot of history here that’s made it difficult.”

 Is Missoula the "next San Francisco?"

And now something we’ve heard anecdotally is proving true — Missoula’s housing market is matching San Francisco’s. A recent report by Hwang looked at 10 metro areas that saw the most drastic changes over the pandemic.

“Missoula, out of the entire list, just had the most extreme values,” she said. “This is all according to Zillow data.”

Hwang’s report in the Chronicle shows Missoula had the most extreme changes in the country in home values and inventory. Between January 2020 to January 2022, the cost of a home in Missoula shot up 57%. Inventory declined 58%. Missoula also had some of the lowest inventory per capita, with about 1.4 homes per 1,000 people on average.

 Is Missoula the "next San Francisco?"

Robert Sonora with the University of Montana says the challenges may continue, “it’s going to be an interesting few years, I think.”

“If that migration pattern keeps up, it’s going to become more and more difficult for people with in-state incomes to buy perhaps the home they like,” Sonora continued.

Sonora said something to keep an eye on, will be the lasting economic impacts, “if I have to spend more on my house, now suddenly I can’t, I don’t know, go out for dinner, so it starts bleeding into other sectors as well.”

And it’s hard to predict when or if the trends will reverse.

 Is Missoula the "next San Francisco?"

“If I’ve learned anything in the past couple of years, it’s not to expect anything, especially with the housing market,” Hwang said.

There’s a sliver of hope for renters with vacancy rates actually improving, according to reporting by our news partners, the Missoula Current. The rental vacancy has hovered near zero for years now, but a recent report by Sterling Commercial Real Estate shows that figure is now 2.6%.

Missoula’s housing market has paved the way for scam artists to try to bilk would-be tenants out of thousands of dollars in first-month rent, deposits, and other items.

Some red flags you should be aware of from scammers:

  • If they waive all application fees and want you to send money ASAP via Paypal, Venmo or preloaded gift cards.
  • If they only communicate with you via text or email.
  • Landlords can’t give you names of local businesses they use for home repairs.
  • If it sounds too good to be true… probably is a scam.

We also looked at the prices of houses and condominiums in Gallatin County where the median price in February for a single-family home was a staggering $896,000, marking a year-to-year increase of almost 49%.

Those are high prices for sure, but that’s if you can even find a house to buy, with inventory down a little more than 26%. Numbers out from the Gallatin Association of REALTORS show houses spent 37 days on the market on average.

 Is Missoula the "next San Francisco?"

Meanwhile, the price for a condo jumped a little more than 85% to $657,500.

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