Real estate market in Madison County shows encouraging upswing

Local realtor Bill Mercer of Clearwater Montana Properties in Ennis had his best year ever in the real estate market last year, due in large part to his offices’ affiliation with the Cabela’s Trophy Properties network designed to market and enhance recreational properties.

The exclusive network of recreational property experts specializes in hunting land, fishing properties, land auctions, farms, ranches, waterfront and lake homes and other recreational properties. And while Mercer says that many buyers are still wary of an uncertain economy, he attributes the upward trend his business saw in 2012 to a combination of confidence in real estate and prices being adjusted to where buyers feel they are a good value.

“That to me was encouraging because it appears that people are either buying property to maybe build on or they’re buying it to invest in,” he said.

But while Mercer is riding high at Clearwater Montana Properties, not everyone in the real estate business saw the same success he did last year. Toni Bowen and husband Don of Arrow Real Estate said that 2011 was a better year for their business than 2012, but that was due in part to the high-end properties they sold that year. And although Bowen says the market is slower and the demand is down, she was encouraged by the number of younger people buying property and moving to the area.

“There are still a lot of people out of state wanting to move here and retire. A lot of them are waiting until they can sell their properties where they are moving from,” Bowen said. “In general, we’ve kept pretty steady busy with new listings and people contacting us for information on properties.”

Bowen went on to explain how trends in the real estate market have shifted in recent years.

“In the old days people wanted to come here, buy vacant land and build their Montana dream house. Now there are so many houses on the market with really good prices that it doesn’t make sense to buy land and build when you can get more for your money buying an existing house.”

Ironically, Mercer sold over 12 bare ground properties last year. He explains that much of his business comes through referrals, and the connection with Cabela’s certainly hasn’t hurt.

“It’s huge because people who are looking for properties, particularly in the West, think of recreational type properties and that sort of thing,” he said. “From what I saw at the end of 2012 we’re getting an awful lot of people contacting us through the Cabela’s connections, so I look for it to be a good real estate year.”

Karen Talley of Clear Creek Realty in Sheridan said that while middle range properties moved slowly last year, the real estate market is beginning to show signs of improvement. She said that the Ruby Valley Garnet LLC mining company plans to bring approximately 40 to 60 jobs to the Ruby Valley this spring, which could potentially impact the real estate market there.

“This is good for the schools, its good for the businesses, hospital, you name it,” she said.

And while the real estate market has the potential to impact local communities, Bill Mercer’s wife Quinn thinks that it is in fact the community that impacts the market, with a new hospital, new school, nice restaurants and an overall quality of life that is desirable to many people.

“I think all those factors have people stop and look and look and say ‘Wait a second, this is no little Montana town,’” she said.

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