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Cheyenne, Wyo. dodges housing bubble

Christine Dugas of USA Today wrote a great article about how Cheyenne, Wyo. dodges worst of housing bubble and I wanted to share it with you all.

Cheyenne, Wyo., is a frontier town where the wind blows across the high plains and antelopes roam the streets, causing traffic hazards in the winter. But one wreck it missed was the housing bubble.

"Cheyenne has been pretty fortunate," says Norm Morris, president of the Cheyenne Board of Realtors. "We haven't had big spikes."

During the real estate boom, it started to become a Colorado bedroom community.

But Cheyenne, which is the state capital and the county seat of Laramie County, is still holding onto its past and preserving its heritage. True West magazine named it the top true West town in 2009.

•Sales status. Home sales have remained fairly stable through the years. "If they increased by 4% or 5% a year, that is pretty much a top-end swing for us," Morris says.

That changed a little in the first half of this year when many first-time buyers rushed to take advantage of the tax credit. After it expired and home contracts were completed, sales fell.

Even though mortgage interest rates are low, more restrictive lending standards hold down sales. Buyers need sizable down payments and good credit scores.

In July, 65 homes were sold in Laramie County, down 48% from a year earlier.

It's unclear if the local market will start to pick up soon, but it appears that August home sales did not drop more than July's, Morris says.

•Price points. Wyoming has had one of the lowest foreclosure rates in the nation. Last year, it ranked 45 out of 50 states, according to RealtyTrac.

But in the second quarter of 2010, foreclosure filings increased. Although there have been some home foreclosures and short sales in Cheyenne, they have not pulled down prices.

The national news about the housing collapse has had more impact. "Home buyers are pretty smart people, and they are looking for the best buy," Morris says. "Sellers know that if they don't have a home priced well, then it is just going to sit there."

In July, the median sales price — $173,500 — was 3% lower than a year earlier.

•Local economy. Cheyenne's economy has withstood the recession better than other areas. Its unemployment rate was 6.9% in July, compared with the national rate of 9.5%.

It has very little manufacturing and is not economically diverse, says Rob Godby, University of Wyoming economics professor.

The oil and gas industry forms its economic base, and, fortunately, "The energy and resource sector has been coming back," Godby says.

Cheyenne also has job stability because it is the state capital and the F.E. Warren Air Force Base is nearby.

Cheyenne is trying to create itself as a regional center of economic development. Lowe's and Wal-Mart have opened regional distribution centers.

It has been selected for a National Center for Atmospheric Research Supercomputing Center. This summer, construction started on a $70 million facility, and research should start in 2012. The partners include the University of Wyoming and Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power.

"Since it won the contract, we're seeing a few companies announcing plans to open data-storage centers here," Godby says.

•Hot 'hoods. Cheyenne continues to preserve the city. Last year, Moore Haven Heights was designated as a historic district. It's an upscale neighborhood that has many Tudor-brick homes from the 1920s and 1930s and ranch homes built in the 1940s and 1950s.

It features narrow streets and well-manicured lawns and joins several other historic districts.

One historic home on the market for $259,000, which was built in 1920, has three bedrooms and vintage charm with a gas fireplace, hardwood floors and crown molding.

I hope you enjoyed the update on the housing trends in Cheyenne! 


Published Monday, September 20, 2010 5:02 PM by Joe Prunty

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