- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - National trends can sometimes be slow to hit Wyoming. They often start in bigger metropolitan areas and trickle into the Cowboy State months or even years later.

The Great Recession and slowdown in the housing market proved similar. Houses lost value and foreclosed, and markets flooded with excess property a full year before the same thing started to hit Wyoming.

Wyoming also didn’t fall as hard or for as long as some places, said Wenlin Liu, principal economist for the state’s Economic Analysis Division. Which means that as the country enjoys a strong comeback, the state’s upswing was, and is, a bit more muted.

“The main reason, during the housing boom, Wyoming housing prices were increasing, but we did not experience as much boom as some parts of the rest of the country,” Liu said. “We did not have the boom like Florida and Arizona. When you have a really huge boom, you have a huge bust.”

The U.S. recession started at the end of 2007, with home prices declining by double-digit percentages. Wyoming saw almost no change until the end of 2008, when natural gas prices dropped, Liu said. When natural gas prices started to rise, so did home prices.

“We are blessed to have a global demand for natural resources, and we are clearly leaders in the United States for production of all of the extractive minerals,” said Randy Hall, a Casper developer and real estate broker for Broker One Real Estate. “We weathered the recession really well.”

In Natrona County, home prices peaked in June 2008 with averages around $215,000. They dropped to a low of $180,000 in early 2011, when they started climbing again.

By the end of 2012, the average home price was up to $218,000, according to Sheila Delach, a real estate agent for Edgeworth Real Estate Firm in Casper.

Many of the price reductions were in higher-end properties, such as those selling for more than $350,000, Hall said. Interested buyers couldn’t find any long-term financing on what were called jumbo mortgages, and oil field workers were being transferred from Casper to the booming Bakken oil field in North Dakota.

But Casper was more prepared for that kind of slowdown than other parts of Wyoming, he said. It had new housing subdivisions with lower-cost homes made even more accessible by the first-time homebuyer tax credit offered at the time.

Casper’s housing market this year is a little behind that of 2013, something Hall blames on cold, wet weather more than economy. He also thinks the Oil City is better off than it was during past downturns.

“Since the last bust in the ‘80s, our retail and medical sectors have grown, and other types of industries have filled the void,” Hall said. “We’re not totally dependent on the (energy) industry. It would be foolish to say they don’t play a big, big part of the economy, but it’s not a sink or swim type of situation.”

Not all Wyoming cities were spared the full effects of the recession.

Jackson, a resort town known for pricey second homes, saw home prices decrease as much as 50 to 60 percent in some areas, said Ron Adams, an associate broker for Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates and the current president of the Wyoming Association of Realtors.

“Prices went the lowest I’ve seen in 20-plus years from what they were originally,” he said. “Sellers had a hard time accepting they couldn’t get the kind of prices they were getting previously. A lot of inventory sat on the market from the end of 2008 until the end of 2010.”

Jackson went from 836 licensed Realtors in 2007 to under 500 at the lowest point. Realtors either moved, switched businesses or relied on families for financial support, he said. The number is back up to around 600, which is common for resort towns.

“You swing from one end of the pendulum to another,” Adams said. “Our biggest problem this summer is having enough inventory to keep up with demand … which means we will likely see prices rise again with an increase in demand.”


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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