Adventures in Housing

Missoula’s hot housing market makes this real estate agent’s job harder

Maria Hollenhorst Aug 4, 2021
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Limited inventory and high home prices have created challenges for Mindy Palmer, a realtor in Missoula, Montana. Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Adventures in Housing

Missoula’s hot housing market makes this real estate agent’s job harder

Maria Hollenhorst Aug 4, 2021
Heard on:
Limited inventory and high home prices have created challenges for Mindy Palmer, a realtor in Missoula, Montana. Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
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Mindy Palmer, realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Montana Properties in Missoula, Montana. (Courtesy of Mindy Palmer)
Mindy Palmer of Berkshire Hathaway Montana Properties. (Photo courtesy Palmer)

“The real estate market in Missoula is not for the faint of heart,” said Mindy Palmer, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Properties Montana Real Estate in Missoula, Montana. 

Fueled in part by Americans’ desire for bigger homes in less densely populated areas during the pandemic, home prices in Ravalli County, where Palmer works, have skyrocketed. 

“I’d say a day doesn’t go by that I’m not commented by somebody saying, ‘Oh, you must love this market right now. You must be making money hand over fist,’” Palmer said. “And I always stopped them right there and, God help them, they get my elevator speech every time, and that is, ‘No, it’s not an enjoyable market … it’s a challenge.’”

With so few properties available for sale, Palmer said there’s competition among realtors unlike anything she’s experienced in her more than 20 years in the industry. 

“There are 855 members in the Missoula County Organization of Realtors,” Palmer said. “Currently, there are 177 residential homes for sale. [It] doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that you’ve got some competition out there right along with your buyers.”

Nationwide, demand for houses is outpacing supply.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau last week, sales of new homes fell in June to the lowest level since the first months of the pandemic. Plenty of people want to buy homes, but high prices and limited inventory is discouraging would-be buyers

Earlier this year, Palmer told Marketplace that first-time buyers — the type of client she established her business with — were being driven farther and farther away from Missoula’s city center. Halfway through 2021, she said that trend shows no sign of slowing down.

To help one client find a home to buy in time to vacate their rental, she said they’d drive anywhere from 150-275 miles round trip just to see one or two properties. 

“You’re working twice as hard for the same amount of money,” she said. “But when your client does get the house, when you do find that first-time homebuyer something, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

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