Alice Campbell Havre Daily News email@example.com
Despite the ups and downs, mainly downs, of the national housing market, the Havre-area market is holding steady. "I would say our housing market is real stable," said Jim Anderson, the president of the Hi-Line Board of Realtors and also Northern Land and Realty. "Our market is so much better than most areas in the nation," he said because there are jobs and responsible sales around Havre. "We're very lucky to be in Havre, Montana, or on the Hi-Line," he added. Medium-priced residential houses are moving in 90 to 120 days, he said, with the best selling homes priced between $80,000 and $150,000. The average selling price in Havre sits at approximately $130,000, a price that has gone up slightly over the years. "It has just steadily increased, but not a lot. It's just a real steady increase," Anderson said. "We don't have booms, but we don't typically have busts," he added, due to conscientious lending, accurate appraisals and good realtors. While some people are moving into the area, people are also moving around in Havre between various price ranges, Anderson said, adding that the market has actually seen "people maybe moving to the smaller towns" instead of into the city. Currently, 136 houses are on the market in the Havre area, which puts the inventory in line with historical numbers of an average 140, Anderson said. But the last two years, the numbers were different. Then, approximately 70 houses were on the market each year, making the market tight. That enabled sellers to get more than their homes were worth sometimes, Anderson said. "We probably had some homes that brought more than their asking price" because of less selection, he said. Now, "a properly priced house that is in condition to sell, they are getting right at their asking price," he said. Once a buyer is approved for financing and has chosen a house, it takes 30 to 60 days, on average, to close, Anderson said. More people are going through the process with first-Time home buyer tax credits and lower interest rates provided for through the stimulus package. "There's a lot of people looking right now that have been renters, " Anderson said, because of those breaks. Anderson said that when it comes to the typical buyer, "we're not having a problem getting those qualified" for financing, although it might take more time than usual. There hasn't been an increase in foreclosures, that Anderson has noticed, either. As the Housing and Urban Development local listing broker for the federal program, Anderson said, "I am probably at or below the normal number of listings to date that I would have through HUD. "I credit our lenders and realtors and appraisers ... ," Anderson said, "for putting people into homes that they could afford." Those groups, combined with a lack of speculative home building and a diverse job base, have helped keep the market stable, Anderson said. The future looks stable, too, Anderson said, with the development of jobs in the agriculture and oil and gas industries keeping people in the area. Some people are building homes instead of buying. In 2007, 18 residential homes were built, followed by 13 in 2008 and two so far this year, according to building permits issued by the city of Havre. And the rental business isn't seeing any downturn dealing with government foreclosures despite the easier ways to purchase homes now, Brad Lotton, a rental property owner and member of the Easter Montana Landlords Association, said. A variety of people rent, including college faculty and students, Lotton said. In his 30 years in the rental business, Lotton said he hasn't seen many big trends, other than that people are more aware of their rights and laws, making "people more apt to do things properly." Darwin Zellmer, the president of the landlords' association and a rental property owner in Harlem, said that while ownership gives people equity and a sense of pride, not everyone can afford to own a home. "Ownership is better for the community," he said. Rent prices have been "pretty well maintained," Zellmer said, adding that increases have been gradual and small. "I like to think we have what are probably feasibly priced homes," he said. Zellmer said he's rented to some people for three to five years, "but they would rather rent than buy. "I think part of it was they didn't have the money up front for the down payment," he said. Couple that with uncertainty of jobs, and people continue to rent, he said.