Montana sees increase in median home prices

Nov 14, 2013

Real estate broker Alan Bock shows off a $375,000 home near Helena, which is about $175,000 more than the counties median price.
Credit Dan Boyce

Data released Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Montana’s median home value moved up 5 percent in the two years after the Great Recession.

The statistics were gathered in the states nine most populous counties in the years 2010-2012 and were compared to the same figures from the recession years of 2007-2009. They show the state’s median price for owner-occupied households bumped up to $183,600 from $174,900 during the recession.

Montana Department of Commerce Senior Economist Joe Ramler said higher prices do drive some folks out of the market for homes, but the current trends are overall seen as a positive sign.

"People generally buy homes in the expectation that the value that they're spending today is going to be less than hopefully future values so you now have an asset as opposed to a liability," Ramler said.

When the nine counties are viewed individually, however, the results are mixed.

Credit MT Dept. of Commerce

Lake County had the largest increase in median home value, at nearly 14 percent. However, the median value in Gallatin County went almost as far the other way, down more than 11 percent.

Ramler also noted that although the number of housing units in the state increased by nearly 30,000 in the years after the recession, the percentage of owner-occupied households remained consistent at 68 percent.

"So, we didn't really see a shift in the proportion of home ownership versus renters," Ramler said.

The data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows a national decline in median home values of about 9 percent. The Montana Commerce Department said this is due in part to a surplus of foreclosed homes driving prices down.

Montana seen as a whole did not see as much of an increase in foreclosures, but that is part of the reason for decreased median housing prices in counties like Gallatin and Flathead.