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Rising home sales boost building inspection business

By Colin Cashin, KTVM Reporter, ccashin@ktvm.com
Published On: Jun 16 2014 06:21:09 PM MDT
Updated On: Jun 16 2014 06:27:52 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Home sales in Gallatin County have seen a sharp increase over the past few years and it's not slowing down any time soon, according to the Gallatin Association of Realtors.

The Gallatin Aassociation of Realtors reports that 1,271 single-family residences were sold in 2013. That number is up almost 200 from the 1,079 sold in 2012 and almost double the 688 sold in 2009.

Bozeman homes make up the most of those numbers, with 839 homes sold in 2013.

GAR President Joyce Miller says she expects that trend to continue as more affordable homes hit the market.

Miller explained homes under $250,000 are in high demand. "They are gone -- almost virtually before they hit the market. I mean, most listing agents that are taking a listing under 250, they may have 2 or 3 people already in mind for it."

When home sales spike it keeps businesses like home inspection services busy.

We met up with a local home inspector who says more sales mean a backlog for his company, and the effects can trickle down to buyers.

Jeff Thorsen owns Bridger View Inspections, which does private home inspections in southwest Montana.

"Generally, I perform 2-3 inspections a day," said Thorsen.

During a typical home inspection Thorsen looks at things like the foundation, electrical, plumbing and ventilation. Then he writes up a report.

It's often a necessary step before a buyer can close on a home. With the uptick in home sales, Thorsen says his business is up as well.

"The call load is quite heavy right now," said Thorsen, "Bozeman is very busy; there's a lot of construction going on. It's great, the industry's booming right now."

His schedule is booked three weeks out -- twice as long as it was during the economic downturn a few years ago.

Thorsen says the busy schedule means home buyers may have to wait longer before they get the keys to their new house, "Sometimes its unfortunate, we have to push back closings."

It's a wait he says home buyers are willing to stick out, as most choose to get home inspections.

According to the most recent statistics tracked by the American Society of Home Inspectors and the United States General Accountability Office, between 77 and 86 percent of home buyers opt for private home inspections.

As long as home sales in Bozeman stay on the upswing, so will Thorsen's business.

Thorson said, "It's a good industry to be in, and I think it really helps Bozeman's economy a lot."

That, he says, bodes well for workers involved in every aspect of home construction.

We also looked at inspections done by the city of Bozeman. Officials report the number of building inspections between July 2013 and May 2014was 33,625. That's more than double from the same period the previous year, 16,600.

That covers new residential and commercial construction, plus renovations and remodels.

The Bozeman Building Inspection Division recently hired two new workers to help keep up with demand.