The average real estate price in Wyoming has risen by almost 10% since the beginning of last year. This is the fastest rate of increase in government property valuations since the third quarter of 2007.
While this hint is indicative of a lively state property market, it reflects a more complex supply and demand dynamic, which some experts believe offers many low-income families few home ownership options.
While the US economy contracted fastest from April to June, the national real estate market is not nearly as badly affected. This is partly due to the recent record lows in mortgage rates of just under 3%, as mortgage investment giant Freddie Mac reports.
But since some families have jumped to record lows for residential investments at interest rates, others have withdrawn. Wyoming chief economist Wenlin Liu, who compiles the quarterly price jump report, said the state's housing supply has been limited for years, especially for families that fall into lower-income categories.
This dynamic, Liu said, has forced many residents to seek rental accommodation instead, which has become more expensive in some cities in Wyoming.
"In a community like Cheyenne, rents continued to rise," said Liu. "For some tenants, it is only increased again when their rental period expires and they look for another rental house."
Laramie County commissioner Gunnar Malm, who works in real estate and previously served as President of the Cheyenne Board of Realtors, said affordable housing was an issue that dates back, at least, to the 2008 economic crisis.
Malm said that the supply of rental properties and apartments of "all kinds" has continued to decline due to high demand and low interest rates. He pointed out several development costs that ultimately affect home buyers' paperbacks.
"The price of the land is constantly increasing with the rising cost of the infrastructure needed for these subdivisions, and then the price of labor and materials needed to build these houses," said Malm.
Liu's report found that Wyoming's single-family home building approvals in the first quarter of 2020 were 3.5% lower than a year earlier.
Another factor that Liu said he has some "anecdotal evidence" that could explain the price surge is more people outside the state looking for real estate in the west, with Wyoming only lagging behind Montana and Idaho in its home price hike.
"It used to be Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City, but with such high prices, it got to a point … it's just so expensive that people can't afford it," said Liu. "So, with COVID-19, they’re likely to find that less densely populated places are becoming attractive."