Local real estate market still troubled

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The Flathead real estate market may have its worst days behind it going into 2012, according to Kalispell appraiser Jim Kelley.

“We’re real close to the bottom, or we’re just about there,” Kelley told a crowd of business leaders attending the annual economic outlook forum Wednesday at Flathead Valley Community College.

In 2011 there were 1,029 residential properties sold in Flathead County, down 10 from 2010’s total of 1,039 properties, Kelley’s real estate report indicated. The average and median prices for Flathead homes continued to drop. The average home price fell from $271,890 in 2010 to $251,824 in 2011. The median price declined from $197,000 to $180,000.

The median price is the point at which half of all homes are sold for more and half are sold for less.

About 34 percent of the homes sold last year were bank-owned properties in foreclosure.

Close to 60 percent of the homes sold in 2011 were under $200,000, Kelley said.

Whitefish seems to be a bright spot, where the median price actually increased from $223,750 in 2010 to $240,000 last year. The average price of Whitefish residential properties remained essentially the same, at about $355,500. Close to 19 percent of the Whitefish home sales last year were foreclosures.

Columbia Falls had a poor year in terms of real estate sales last year, with the median price down 30 percent to $100,000 and the average price down 31 percent to $106,385.

“It’s a black and white comparison,” Kelley said about Whitefish and Columbia Falls.

Columbia Falls may finally be feeling the impact of jobs lost when the aluminum plant closed and the continued erosion of the timber industry.

Whitefish tends to benefit from Canadian visitors who invest in real estate, he added.

In Kalispell the median home price dropped 7 percent, from $156,000 in 2010 to $145,000 last year. The average price was down nearly 6 percent, from $163,751 to $154,453. About a third of the sales were foreclosures.

Bigfork saw housing price declines, too. The median price dropped more than 26 percent from $336,000 to $247,000, while the average home price fell from $445,150 to $349,046.

Kelley said the number of foreclosure notices filed has dropped, which should translate into fewer foreclosures.

“Affordability is coming back to levels that have been historically sustainable,” Kelley said. “The indications are that we’re relatively close to the bottom.”

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