Montana Top Brokers Suggestions For Buyers & Sellers To Navigate The Present Market

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The Montana real estate market is experiencing a boom since the pandemic started last year. With more people moving to the state the home prices across the state are getting impacted. A thriving economy and increase in jobs in the healthcare, technology, and agriculture sectors are fueling the booming real estate market. Overall, Montana’s real estate landscape is nothing short of crazy as of now.

In such a bustling scenario, if you are thinking to invest in Montana’s real estate, you are not alone. However, before making the final call, you must keep some crucial pointers in mind. To help you out we got in touch with the top Montana real estate brokers and gathered their insights on what buyers and sellers can do to navigate the contemporary hot market.

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1. Jacob Knight, Real Estate Agent At Big Sky Brokers, LLC (Helena)

Buyers: Demand is strong in a lot of cities. Verify with different experienced realtors to get a sense if the buyer demand is still there. In my market of Helena, Montana, the demand is still here, it has been here for two to three years actually, and in the last year have seen a drastic increase in movers with the pandemic.

People are wanting to move here. So buyers that didn’t find a home because of the competition this year will still be looking next year, and the way things are trending in our market, buyers will continue to come. Justifying our current high prices.

In a market like Helena’s we are usually fairly steady. Other markets may see peaks and valleys while ours is more rolling hills so to speak. My prediction is we will even out close to the prices we’re at and will be our new normal unless something very very drastic in the real estate world or economy happens.

My advice is to not rush anything although it feels like you almost have to in this market, more and more buyers are regretting their purchase, mostly first time home buyers for numerous reasons. Just do your due diligence on specific properties. Have a realtor who works immediately when you need them.

Do the research on the value of the property in comparison with other sold comparables and the state of their individual markets. As far as interest rates go, they are on a slow but steady rise, and I see them continuing to do that but they are still very low. So there’s a trade off currently with prices and interest rates. It’s hard to give buyers and sellers a bottom line in times like this.

My final advice is to know your market extremely well, don’t rush it, and know that it depends on your market but to me it’s more likely we will see prices stay where they are now or close to, and less likely there’s a bubble and will come crashing down, but again that could depend on your cities demand and market. 

Sellers: See above. Because if you’re selling you most likely need to buy, if you don’t, that would be more of a reason to sell. But I see a strong sellers market in most all markets for another year, after that it will probably depend on the specific market and demand. Know your market, ask professionals in your local real estate world. Although they won’t know for sure it can help you make a decision.

2. Billie Parrott, Real Estate Broker At Meridian Real Estate (Billings)

My advice to a buyer in this market is to have patience and don’t give up. We will most likely write multiple offers until we successfully get an accepted offer. The first step is to speak to your lender of choice and start the preapproval process.

There are so many variables like interest rate, insurance, taxes, closing costs and down payment. The lender will go over the numbers with the buyer to get a true sense of what purchasing a home will cost with a home loan. If the buyer is using cash they will want to have a proof of funds letter ready to go.

Their bank can provide that information to the buyer’s agent. Visit with a few real estate agents till you find the right fit. When making the offer consider any contingencies that could be waived, finding out what is most important to the seller. Maybe the seller needs to rent back for a week or two and the buyer who offers that term could get the deal accepted over a higher offer.

The real estate agent is there to guide the buyer through the process with sound advice when making offers to get the best deal possible. After an offer is accepted the buyer should not change jobs or purchase anything on credit, especially a new car. They should always talk to their lender before making any moves. It could affect their ability to move forward with the transaction.

It is currently a sellers market but sellers still need to be realistic about pricing their home. A real estate professional will provide a market analysis with current home sales and what is active on the market.

The market will drive up the final purchase price with possible multiple offers. It is not always about the highest price but terms should also be considered when accepting the best offer. The seller also needs to consider the appraisal. If priced too high the home may not appraise and the deal could be terminated or the seller will have to reduce anyway.

Declutter and the rule of thumb is to pack away items you will not need in the next 30 days. Buyers need to be able to picture themselves living in the home. Take down personal photos. Their real estate agent should be using a professional photographer for the listing photos.

First impressions are key to getting the most showings and interest.. Hiring the right real estate professional will be beneficial when it comes to marketing the property and navigating multiple offers.

3. Deb Parker, Broker & Owner At Parker & Co. Real Estate (Billings)

My advice to Buyers is to not give up, I will find them a home they are happy with. It might not be their forever home but in our market buyers have to compromise a little. Our market still experiences sale fall throughs for various reasons and I’ve had seller’s agents call me after it falls through to see if my clients still want to buy it. This works out successfully for all parties.

My advice to Sellers is to still be realistic. No realtor representing a buyer would recommend they spend a ridiculous amount for a property that is too blatantly overpriced. That being said it probably happens a little but for the majority of the sellers in the market, we as real estate brokers are taking in appreciation ratios and current sale prices that will reflect a logical asking price for a home. 

Due to low inventory, sale prices still get driven over the asking price but due to competition in the buying market, not due to an irrational listing price.

4. Jerry Jordan, Real Estate Broker at United Country – Montana Properties (Butte)

In the current market, I feel bad for buyers in general but feel the worst for first-time homebuyers. There is a lot of emotion and nervousness and uncertainty with most first time buyers and I strive to alleviate those nerves and make the process enjoyable and something they will look back on as a fun time. 

With the current market however, I feel there is so much pressure to act fast so that one of the few properties available doesn’t “get away”, that there really isn’t the time available to get to know clients better and to help them from start to finish without them feeling pressured. This market just doesn’t allow much time to find the “perfect” house. 

One thing that I think buyers can do to help them be successful is to make sure they have already started on their financing. This is true in any market but with timelines being much shorter now, having that step taken care of makes it much easier to move forward with an offer. 

Being able to put offers together quickly can make a huge difference today. I would also suggest that buyers make a list of everything they would like to have in their ideal house and then go through that list to see what is “essential”. With limited inventory, it helps to know ahead of time what you can and can’t live without and be prepared.

As far as sellers go, my advice would be not to do a lot of work nor spend a lot of money updating their properties. Most buyers are more concerned about getting a place period so they are more willing to accept properties that may need a few fixes. Additionally, the buyer’s tastes are almost certainly going to be different than the seller’s so spending a lot of money to re-decorate doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Finally, you would expect a broker to say this but, get a good agent! People probably think they can easily sell their house by themselves but with the speed that properties are moving and all the different forms and situations that can come up like possible multiple offers, escalation clauses, etc., it just makes sense to use a professional to help you through the process. 

I would also recommend the same to buyers. A good agent is going to help your offer stand out and they can help avoid some of the pitfalls of the current climate.

5. Leza Vargas, Owner/Broker at Beartooth Realty (Greater Billings Area)

Profile photo of Leza Vargas

The Montana market has exploded on a level unprecedented. This market is unique, in that, previous real estate booms have been focused on vacation and secondary homes, where this influx is comprised of families loading their belongings and children into a Uhaul and seeking a new way of life.  We have not seen a migration of Americans on a scale like this since the days of the gold rush. 

As a seller in this market, you hold all the cards. Compromises and provisions favoring seller incentives and long term residency past closing dominate the market. Multiple offers are common. As a seller, it is tempting to bypass real estate commissions and attempt to sell their homes on their own. In this market more than ever, we are seeing a flood of individuals that are purchasing sight unseen without doing their due diligence, and even buyers agents taking the easy sale and not doing their due diligence, creating situations rife for litigation. Sellers are well advised to cover all their bases with competent representation and ample disclosure.

As for buyers, it’s a battlefield out there. Preparation is critical. Engaging in the process of purchasing a home without a solid pre-approval is contract suicide. The competition for homes is at a peak and it is critical to move forward with the strongest offer within your wheelhouse.  Aggressive offers are crucial and now is not the time for low ball offers. The current situation has creating a selling environment where in many cases, a full price offer is considered low. In addition, time is not on your side. Do your research and narrow down your wants vs your needs. You will likely be making compromises to get into the home you want. When the right home comes along, act with speed without giving up discretion and don’t get caught up in bidding wars that prompt you to move beyond your budget. Expect to stay in your home 5+ years to see equity. Unless a property is seriously distressed, now is not the time to expect a quick flip. Offering aggressively, and limiting seller liabilities like requesting repairs or other contingencies is a virtual must if you are competing with cash offers. It’s not always about the highest offer, it often boils down to the offer with the strongest terms, most reliable funding and an agent with creative ideas that make your offer the most appealing, even among a sea of higher numbers. Again, competent representation is absolutely critical if you hope to set yourself apart from the crowd.

6. Liz Francis, Broker/Owner at North Acre Real Estate (Billings)

In the past year, we have seen an incredible amount of movement around the country as people re-evaluate where they want to live and work. All around Montana, and especially in Billings, this along with the historically low interest rates has had an immense impact on our real estate market. If you’re currently considering buying or selling a home, this is my biggest advice to you: Don’t run before you can walk. (Perhaps an overused saying, but very applicable.) You must do the groundwork before you can take on the higher-level tasks. If you are a buyer, this means finding a lender (or shopping around for a lender you like) and going over the pre-approval process so you know the realities of what you can buy. 

If you’re a seller, this means getting your home sale-ready with cleaning, basic fixes, and getting a market analysis for the likely list price of your house. Whether you’re buying or selling, find a knowledgeable person you trust. Don’t underestimate the value long-term and short-term that having a good real estate agent on your side and guiding you through the process can achieve! Especially in this world of multiple offers and intense sales, you will want a professional who knows this world completely to take some of the weight and stress off your shoulders. Don’t get frustrated right away. This is a major transaction in “normal” times and there has been a lot more going into current transactions as so many people compete for homes they want. With so many moving parts and so many things happening, there is very little chance everything will go according to plan. 

If you have a good agent working with you, trust that they will be doing their best every step of the way to represent you and keep the transaction moving the right direction. Don’t get discouraged. There is a lot of competition right now, and it’s easy to get caught up in feeling competitive and wanting to feel like you’re “winning,” and any step backward can feel much worse than it actually is. It can take time and maybe changes you weren’t planning on making, but eventually it will work out. And finally, be sure to have open communication with your agent throughout this process. They are there to explain things, give advice, make sure everything is on track, and make sure each step is completed during the home-buying and home-selling process. One of the most effective ways they can do this is if they have all the information up front and don’t have any surprises along the way that they could have been prepared for. Don’t be afraid to speak about the things the professional needs to know or the things that you feel you’re not completely comprehending but need to understand