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Rental prices rising in Billings

Posted at 7:34 PM, May 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-22 13:43:22-04

BILLINGS — As home prices continue to rise in the Billings area, rental prices are continuing to grow as well.

Prospective renter Mackenzie Wood knows firsthand just how challenging it can be hunting for a house in Montana's hectic real estate market.

"I’d been looking for six months. I’d applied to, I don’t know, 10 to 15 places before I found one that I got that was sight unseen, which wasn’t the best idea. But I found one," said Wood, who moved from Washington state to Billings almost a year ago.

And as people continue to buy the limited supply of homes, the overall demand for housing is pushing up rent.

"The rent prices are a direct correlation of property prices. So as people are buying homes at increased prices, rents tend to follow that. It’s kind of a lagging indicator," said Jeff Berger, owner of Billings Best Properties, on Friday.

Berger manages a long list of properties in Billings. He says his company's vacancy rate is at zero percent, and he said when an apartment becomes vacant, it's consistently filled within a couple of days, without exception. This is despite rising rent prices.

"The average three-bedroom house in Billings is about $1,800 per month. So, when you start to see $1,800 per month those applications tend to thin out, we see maybe five to six applicants per property. But anything under $1,600, we’re getting dozens," added Berger.

Wood and her nine-year-old son are still waiting to move out of their current home in Laurel to a much newer rental in the Heights. It's an expensive move that will cost her an extra $1,400 a month, but Wood says it's one she has to make.

"The housing market's climbing and everything like that, but people aren’t climbing with the housing market. We’re not making more money.... It’s hard, especially for like a single mom or someone just trying to make it," Wood added.

And the solutions to Billings housing crisis seem to be few and far between.

"The most honest answer is the free market needs to run its course. Once supply and demand start to even out, you’re going to see prices stabilize. Will they ever go back to what they were 5-10 years ago? No, that’s not going to happen," Berger said.