What kind of house does $380,000 buy in Wyoming?
None, if you are looking in Jackson, where the cheapest single-family house for sale is just less than half a million dollars. And it’s small – two bedrooms.
But in Green River, $380,000 buys you a sprawling five-bedroom, upscale house with granite countertops and a vaulted ceiling. It’s a full $100,000 less than the cheapest home on the market in the resort town to the north.
Or you can contrast the cheapest home for sale in Casper, costing $59,000, with the most expensive house for sale in Jackson this week, at a price of $24.7 million.
In a state of huge contrasts in home prices, there’s one common thread. Wyoming is one of 10 states where prices are hitting all-time highs.
And Wyoming is riding the crest of a rising tide of prices. The national housing market made strong advances on the prices seen in 2012, according to recent data from CoreLogic, a financial analytics firm.
Home prices nationwide, including results of distressed sales, rose 11 percent in December year over year from their 2012 counteparts. It was the 22nd consecutive monthly year-over-year increase in national home prices as well as the strongest annual price growth since 2005.
And as fast as prices are rising nationally, they have increased even faster in Wyoming in the past two years.
Kevin Bromley, who has worked in Casper real estate for 30 years, said prices went up almost 15 percent a year in 2011 and 2012.
‘Disparity was huge’
One of Bromley’s clients, Elliot Apland, was shocked at prices in Wyoming after moving from Denver. “The same house I had in Commerce City, Colorado, costs 100 to 125 grand more in Casper,” he said. “The disparity was huge.”
Apland moved to Casper for his job at True Companies. When he tells his Denver friends how much he paid for a house comparable to what he had in Colorado, “they are in shock."
"They don’t believe it," he said. “I tell them it’s the Williston of Wyoming.”
He was referring to the North Dakota town that is booming from nearby oil development.
Apland is no stranger to moving around. He’s moved eight times in nine years. Still, trying to find a house he could afford in Casper took longer than he had hoped and cost more than he had planned.
"One of roughest things is someone coming from Houston where their house was worth $185,000 on a big lot and with granite countertops. Then they come here to buy that same house, and it is $300,000 to $325,000," said Bromley.
"There's a resistance to buying a house for almost twice. The salary here has to be enough to merit the move," he added.
Dave Haney, executive director of the Wyoming Community Development Authority, said that the housing recovery in Wyoming “has been more prompt than what happened elsewhere in the country.”
He said that with a low unemployment rate, “the demand for housing continues to be robust. In the last few years, we are seeing more and more demand for all forms of housing. Rentals, single-family purchases continued to accelerate.”
Haney said that because Wyoming did not have the high level of foreclosures other parts of the country had during the housing slump, “we also didn’t have the bottom-of-the-barrel prices. Wyoming was able to rebound more quickly.”
New research from CoreLogic put Wyoming in the top 10 states setting records in home pricing. The states tend to be ones with strong energy economies, Haney pointed out.
The states are Texas, North Dakota, Nebraska, Vermont, South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Alaska, Oklahoma and Wyoming, CoreLogic's data shows.
Still, as always, Wyoming’s rosy outlook depends on which market you are in, said Haney. He said Gillette is not keeping up with the rest of the state’s fast growth because of declines in coal production.
As Douglas grows with the increasing energy production nearby, it’s almost as if Douglas and Gillette have traded places, Haney said.
"Campbell County prices will probably soften more than any county in the state in the next years because it is coal-related," Haney said. "Energy pumps up the area, whatever type of energy it is."