Published date:January 17, 2024
Last updated date:January 17, 2024
By Ana Loor
The allure of Western Mountain towns, with their stunning vistas and access to outdoor adventures, has been growing steadily for years. But in recent times, this growth has accelerated, and not always for the better. The hit TV series "Yellowstone" and the pandemic have only added fuel to the fire, as wealthy buyers seek their own piece of the Dutton ranch, driving up prices and reshaping local real estate markets. One such town currently grappling with the effects of this influx of outside money is Driggs, Idaho.
Driggs, Idaho, located on the border of Wyoming and nestled in the heart of ski country, has undergone a remarkable transformation. This once-quiet community is now bustling with activity, but not all residents are celebrating. The surge in demand from wealthy newcomers has reset the real estate market, making it increasingly unaffordable for local residents.
Cindy Riegel, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners in Teton County, Idaho, laments the changes, telling Business Insider, "Many have gone from living comfortably to survival mode. Many have left because they can no longer afford to live here."
For newcomers like Christina Assante, Driggs holds immense appeal. She purchased a half-acre lot in Driggs in 2021 for $500,000, with plans to build a 3,200-square-foot home in the Tributary luxury residential community. The estimated cost of her new home? A cool $1.5 million.
Assante, along with her son Asher, is part of a growing population drawn to this burgeoning ski town, which was once overshadowed by its trendier neighbor, Jackson, Wyoming. While some locals are excited about the injection of newcomers, concerns are emerging about the town's ability to support this rapid growth.
What's happening in Driggs is not an isolated case. Western ski retreats in Colorado and Montana are facing similar challenges, with affordability becoming a central concern. The influx of rich homebuyers has created areas where workers can no longer afford to live, leading to questions about the compatibility of affluence and affordability.
In Driggs, the expansion of the local ski resort, Grand Targhee, is a pivotal factor. The resort has expanded with the new Colter Lift on Peaked Mountain and secured a development permit for 22 short-term rental homes. Plans to increase skiable acreage by 30% have also been proposed.
This growth has contributed to Driggs's population increase of 12% between 2020 and 2022, according to the US Census Bureau. However, not everyone is thrilled about the changes. Concerns about how the expansion will impact the town's character and quality of life are growing.
Other ski towns, like Vail, Colorado, offer cautionary tales. High home prices have pushed many workers further from their workplaces, creating challenges for public employees and service industry workers. In places like Frisco, Colorado, the median rent has reached $4,000, double the national median rent.
Bozeman, Montana, exemplifies the pandemic-driven boom in mountain towns. Home prices have surged, with a 70% increase in just three years. The town has become overrun with out-of-towners seeking refuge from city life during the pandemic.
Even the popularity of the TV show "Yellowstone" has played a role, drawing millions of visitors and millions of dollars to Montana's economy. However, this success comes with concerns about maintaining the town's character and accessibility for all.
In Driggs and beyond, the challenge lies in striking a balance between growth and preserving the character of these charming mountain towns. The influx of wealth can bring economic opportunities but also risks alienating long-time residents and workers.
Paul Diegel, a local in Idaho, sums up the sentiment well, telling Business Insider, "We don't want to see the Teton Valley become the next playground exclusively for the wealthy like Park City, Aspen, or Jackson."
As the West's mountain towns grapple with these changes, the delicate dance between progress and preservation continues. Finding solutions that ensure these communities remain vibrant, accessible, and true to their roots is an ongoing challenge in the ever-evolving landscape of Western real estate.
While the rising real estate prices and the influx of outsiders into Western Mountain towns have presented challenges, there are also compelling reasons to consider owning and holding land in remote areas. Remote land can be an attractive investment. As urban areas become more crowded, people seek solace in remote locations, driving up the value of such properties over time.
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