Lake DeSmet

Bulletin photo by Ethan Weston

Houses and construction along the shores of a frozen Lake DeSmet on Feb. 1, 2023. The area around the lake is one of the fastest growing housing developments in the county.

While the story nationally has been that the housing market has cooled and home sales have slowed, real estate agents say the effects have been much less pronounced in the local market.

“Our local market is steady, by all means,” said Cristy Kinghorn, broker-owner of Buffalo Realty. “Supply is kind of a problem at this point.”

Last week, only 41 homes were listed for sale in the county. Of those, only six were listed for less than $300,000. From February 1, 2022, to now, 118 homes sold — that was down significantly from the 208 homes sold from February 2021 to February 2022. But it’s not a matter of finding interested buyers. The fact that both the average sale and median sale price were up year over year tells Kinghorn that there are willing buyers — there just aren’t many homes to put them into.

“And there’s multiple offers on that lower stuff. You know, that $350,000 and under, there’s still multiple offers or backup offers or whatnot,” Kinghorn said. “It’s certainly not a buyer’s market yet at this point.” 

Kinghorn, and her colleague Dolly Belus, said that inventory is incredibly low — as it has been for some time — for three-bedroom, two-bath homes that are listed for less than $350,000.

“You know, a lot of the folks that work here, their wages mean that is out of reach,” Belus said. 

The average list price of the 41 homes currently for sale in Johnson County is $535,826. On a 30-year mortgage, that would be a monthly payment of $3,000 — not including taxes and insurance.

“That makes it tough,” Belus said. 

Of their clients looking for a new home, Belus and Kinghorn said, it’s a mix of current residents looking to “trade up” and out-of-towners looking to relocate. 

That anecdote is borne out by a recent report from the State of Wyoming Department of Administration & Information. After the state endured nearly consecutive years of negative net migration (more people left than moved into the state) between 2014 and 2019, the direction of net migration reversed in 2020. IRS numbers show that the state experienced a positive net migration (inflow minus outflow) of roughly 1,400 persons between 2019 and 2020.

That effect is being felt in Johnson County too. According to U.S. Census data, from 2020 to 2021, Johnson County’s natural population change — the change attributable solely to births and deaths — was a negative 27. But thanks to the in-migration of 193 people, the county had a net population gain of 166 or almost 2%. 

“Everything is so driven by what is happening outside of Wyoming right now,” county planner Jim Waller said. “We still see a lot of people wanting to move here, and I think every county in Wyoming is seeing some of that.”

Waller said that new construction in the county is keeping a brisk pace. 

From 2020 to 2022, Waller said, about 35 new homes were built in the county each year. A decade ago, that number was 10 per year. 

“It isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot for a small community,” he said. “We notice it just living in the community.”

Emerald Park and Shores of Lake DeSmet are “classic examples,” he said, of the pace of new home builds in the county.

Both subdivisions were platted in 2008. By 2012, there were only two homes at the Shores of Lake DeSmet; the subdivision has nearly 90 lots. At Emerald Park, there were about a dozen homes and that subdivision has almost 80 lots. But in the last five years, building has rapidly accelerating in both subdivisions. 

While growth in the community has historically been closely correlated with oil, gas and mining activity, that is not the case this time, he said. Instead, the growth is coming in the form of retirees or work-from-home employees who are searching for a slower pace or a smaller town.

“Will it slow down, that’s the big question,” Waller said. “I’m expecting a slow down, but it won’t be like a slow down we’ve seen in the past because this slow down is not going to be work related.” 


Executive editor

Jen Sieve-Hicks is the Bulletin's executive editor. She has covered schools, agriculture and government for the Bulletin.

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