GREAT FALLS — Hundreds of thousands of businesses were forced to shut their doors nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic but some industries -- including real estate -- have remained open as buyers look to put a roof over their heads.
“We’re considered essential because everything in real estate is time sensitive,” said ERA Advantage Realty real estate agent Adam Monroe.
Even though the agencies are allowed to operate, some agencies including Century 21 Northwest Realty Montana took extra safety precautions.
Owner Travis Manus says they closed their lobby to the public in March and agents worked from home.
“We got to the point where coming into the office was a little bit ‘business as usual’ and we kinda felt like that wasn’t putting public safety first.”
The office reopened its doors on Monday, but best safety practices are still prioritized. “If you’re gonna have a client, ask what their expectations are,” he said. “Maybe put a sign on the door that says please wear gloves and use hand sanitizer.”
Some realtors have always used technology to stay connected to clients like Monroe and believe video tours have been key over the past few months. Realtors from both agencies say sales have stayed steady through the pandemic.
“We have even more wanting to buy and on the same end more wanting to sell,” said Century 21 Northwest MT sales associate Quenby Klippenes.
Even with the housing market looking steady, NeighborWorks Great Falls officials anticipate seeing more homeowners and renters from all financial backgrounds needing help over the coming months as paychecks continue to be impacted by economic restrictions.
“Maybe the income that they had has dropped tremendously and they’re not used to managing it that way,” said counselor Laura Bolstad.
The non-profit’s free programs include things like financial and foreclosure prevention education and mortgage delinquency.
“What’s the next step, what do I do, they don't have an understanding of how to handle that and they just need a support system,” she said.
Bolstad says they're telling clients to keep making payments if they're able to.
"If you're able to pay your rent or mortgage, you should pay your rent or mortgage,” she said. “It's not ideal at all to be in a situation where you might get assistance because that assistance has to be paid back at some point."
Monroe also says this isn’t the first time Great Falls has faced an economic downturn and come out strong.
“The last one we can go back to is 2008,” he said. “We still showed a positive or a neutral track in that where other cities like Bozeman, Kalispell showed a big drop.”
“We’re seeing homes being sold, we're seeing loans coming through so that process is still being managed,” said Bolstad.
MTN News also contacted Mann Mortgage in Great Falls; leaders say they’re seeing low-interest rates and believe now is still a solid time to invest.
The Great Falls Association of Realtors told MTN News the local housing market had a record-setting year in 2019 due to low-interest rates and the number of houses for sale.