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Going, Growing, GONE

The results are in. For the third year in a row, Bozeman’s economy is the strongest in the nation for a city its size. That’s according to POLICOM, an economic analysis corporation. Bozeman is listed as one of the fastest micropolitan growth areas in the country. The micropolitan designation means a city has a population between 10,000 to 50,000. In 2020, according to POLICOM, there are 542 Micropolitan Statistical Areas in the United States. The physical signs of that economic boom are obvious in everything from air travel to housing.

This data accompanies headlines touting increased flight options to and from Bozeman, including year-round direct flights (on bigger planes) to Atlanta (the service was previously only offered seasonally) and first-time direct flights to Nashville. Those new flights come on the heels of the busiest year ever at the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport. In a January news release, airport director Brian Sprenger said more than 1.57 million people traveled through Bozeman last year. That’s a new record, but according to the data, Bozeman-Yellowstone airport continues to best its own records each year for the past decade. With 231,570 more people flying in 2019 than 2018, it’s no wonder the airport is expanding. This spring, construction kicked off on a $27 million project to add 70,000 square feet to the west end of the existing terminals. The expansion will add new gates, another restaurant and retail space.

The added air traffic combined with Bozeman’s low crime, strong economy, and stunning landscape, make the county a popular place.

New data from The Gallatin Association of Realtors points to a busy housing market, with hefty price tags to accompany. In December, the median price for a single-family home jumped to $435,000 in Gallatin County. This is a particularly meaningful statistic because the county is twice the size of Rhode Island. While Bozeman home prices have been surging for years, the rest of the county lagged, until now.

On Monday, longtime Bozeman realtor Robyn Erlenbush presented a comprehensive housing update as part of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s B2B luncheon series. She said though people approach her frequently to ask if the market is “slowing down” or there’s hope that the “bubble will burst,” there are other factors at play.

“None of the stats show us that. We are in an inventory shortage though,” Erlenbush said. “It’s the (lack of) available buildable ground, pure and simple.”

In 2019, inventory was down 16% over 2018. And just a few miles away, Belgrade home sales were up 20% in 2019. With inventory down in Bozeman, prices continue to climb. The median single-family home sales prices jumped from $381,000 in 2017 to $460,000 in 2019.

“This is not the first time we’ve seen a price run up in the market and people priced out of the market,” Erlenbush said.

Belgrade, formerly seen as a beacon of affordability, is getting pricier, too. In 2017, the median single-family home was listed at $287,000. Today, the median family home costs more than $340,000.

Those prices seem downright cheap compared to Big Sky. Erlenbush said the median single-family home price in Big Sky in 2019 was $1.7 million.

Those numbers, combined with nearly 35% of homes being purchased by all-cash buyers, make buying a home for the first time very challenging. For anyone looking in the $325,000 range or below, Erlenbush said you need to know a realtor who can show you the property before it hits the market.

“That’s the only way you’ll get in at that price,” she said.

While a healthy economy is good news for all, hefty home prices mean many are moving far from city limits and commuting for work. Stay tuned as we look at how long commutes and hefty home prices impact businesses in the Gallatin Valley.

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Written by Hannah Stiff

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