Business reporter for The Billings Gazette.

Housing outlook

A condominium under construction in the Pine Village subdivision on Iron Horse Trail in the Rehberg Ranch subdivision.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

Good news for Billings home owners: Your investment is one of the most stable in the country, according to a new national survey.

The problem? Inventory remains tight, which is pushing up prices for first-time buyers trying to get into the market, according to the latest data from the Association of Billings Realtors.

In late June, SmartAsset released its third-annual list of the best housing markets for growth and stability. Billings took seventh place for the second straight year, just behind Casper, Wyo., determined using data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Most significantly: The average Billings home owner hasn’t seen an increase of more than 5 percent since 1992 (including the Great Recession in 2008-09). The overall growth rate during that period was 194 percent, meaning most homeowners saw their property nearly double in value in 25 years.

Those findings weren’t a surprise to Angela Klein-Hughes, president of the Association of Billings Realtors.

“Billings didn’t experience the extreme downturn and price drops from the recession. We slowed down but prices didn’t plummet like other areas … Buyers love the community and consider it a great place to raise a family,” Klein-Hughes said in a written message.

(Full disclosure: My mother is the office manager at A Haus of Realty in Laurel, where Klein-Hughes is a broker. My wife is also a real-estate agent with a different firm.)

In June, the average home price in the Billings area was $258,853, up 3 percent from the same month the previous year, according to Realtors’ association’s multiple listing service.

There’s a three-month supply of homes in Billings, meaning it would take that period of time to sell all the houses in the market. Most brokers would consider that a sellers’ market.

New listings also declined to 424 in June, down 11 percent from 479 the previous month. Industry experts say that a lack of homes for sale, particularly on the low end, creates competition that can crowd out first-time buyers.

Inside the numbers

30,000 – Estimated number of people who visited Laurel on Tuesday for its celebration and fireworks show, put on by the volunteer fire department.

For that day, the city’s population increased more than sevenfold. If all those people decided to stay, Laurel would become Montana’s sixth-largest city, just ahead of Helena. It would be the fourth-largest city in Wyoming, just behind Laramie.

7.5 – Magnitude of the largest recorded earthquake to hit Montana, the Hebgen Lake earthquake of 1959. The quake triggered a massive landslide that blocked the Madison River and was believed to have killed 28 people. The epicenter was about 175 miles from last week’s 5.8 magnitude temblor six miles south of Lincoln.

42 – The number of vacant lots sold in the Billings area in June. They sold for a total of just under $6 million at an average price of about $142,000, according to the Association of Billings Realtors.

Out and about

• A new real estate office, Northacre Real Estate, is coming to 2700 Second Ave. N., the former home of an art gallery.

• Orange Theory Fitness is coming soon to Shiloh Crossing in the former Montana Cycle building, next to Rustic Nail Spa.

• Agri-Best Feeds of Billings is a new authorized dealer of Arrowquip, which manufactures cattle chutes and other ranching equipment. The store is at 33 N. 15th St.

Haikus from the valley

Week in Montana:

Fireworks and celebration

Next day, an earthquake

Send tips, suggestions and other missives to business reporter Erik Olson at eolson@billingsgazette.com Or call 406-657-1306, or find him on Twitter @BGErikOlson.

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