Business Monthly

Ask the Expert: Northwest Montana Association of REALTORS® Public Affairs Director Erica Wirtala

The local real estate expert answers questions about housing market trends in northwest Montana

By Maggie Dresser
A subdivision under construction off of Three Mile Drive on the westside of Kalispell on Sept. 22, 2021 Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Since the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in 2022, home prices have fallen from the median pandemic peak of $690,000 and have flattened out to hover around $550,000. But real estate industry experts say prices remain unaffordable for many homebuyers as they navigate a 7% interest rate and a lack of inventory in the Flathead Valley.

Northwest Montana Association of REALTORS® Public Affairs Director Erica Wirtala spoke with the Beacon to answer questions about housing trends and interest rates in the Flathead Valley.

The following is an excerpt from that conversation and has been edited for clarity.

Have pre-pandemic housing market trends returned?

Typically this time of year, things really start to ramp up as kids get out of school and families talk about moving. This is when we see the last of realtors because they will all be super busy. We are seeing more of the seasonal comeback compared to Covid craziness. I’m hearing from realtors that they have to work harder to sell their houses and they are doing open houses again, which is a change from Covid times when things got sold sight unseen.

What do prices look like since the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates?

The market has been softer and calmer and you’re seeing a reduction in prices from two years ago. Everyone was hoping the Fed would lower interest rates and they are disappointed that may be pushed to September and that plays a big role in people’s ability to purchase homes. It’s hard to buy a new house at a higher rate, but the people that are up against a wall to downsize or upsize — I think they’re still doing it. I haven’t heard of a lot of deals collapsing.

Is inventory expanding?

Developers are still adding to the inventory and projects are finishing up. I still hear from builders that it’s hard to get subcontractors sometimes, even as things start to ease. The supply chain seems to be better and you can order a dishwasher; things aren’t quite as difficult as they have been.