“I didn’t think I wanted to be a Realtor,” says Devon Viehman, whose family moved to Jackson Hole when she was in fourth grade. “My dad and grandmother were Realtors. I grew up with dinner talk about real estate,” she says. Devon went away to college, earning degrees in marketing and communications. She returned to Jackson the summer after graduating, “David [Viehman, her father and the founder of The Hole Report, a quarterly newsletter tracking Jackson Hole real estate sales and listings now considered the definitive source on valley real estate trends] was really busy. It was a big summer,” she says. “So I got my license and agreed to be his assistant for a while.” That was 13 years ago. “Real estate became my career; I didn’t plan it that way, but I love it,” says Devon, whose husband, Luke Smith, is also a Realtor and part of the team with her and her dad. “I’m proud to be a third generation Realtor,” she says.
Devon is now an associate broker and David’s business partner, co-author of The Hole Report, president of the Wyoming Realtors (she’s the youngest ever president of that group and one of the youngest state presidents in the country), and a lobbyist for the National Association of Realtors. “It is not a red or blue party thing; we’re all about what’s best for homeowners, from property rights to taxes,” Devon says. “I like that I don’t just sell houses, I am active on behalf of clients’, on a bigger level.”
Devon, David, and Luke work with a wide range of clients, from buyers looking for their first homes to others looking for their second (or third or fourth) homes. We asked Devon to share some insights into the Jackson Hole real estate market, which she says is “truly unlike any other market, even when compared to other resort markets.”
What’s the main thing every potential buyer should understand about the Jackson Hole real estate market?
Devon: It’s just so unique. The valley is surrounded by protected, land including national parks and forests; only three percent property here can be privately owned. There’s always more demand than supply.
How can buyers best prepare for this?
Devon: The single most important thing buyers can do right now is to educate themselves about the market, understand it ahead of time. I recommend they tour the different communities and neighborhoods, including specific streets that may interest them. Each area of the valley is so different, and even within neighborhoods, there can be huge differences. For example, in East Jackson, we have $4 and $5 million houses at the base of Snow King, and just a few blocks away, one might find a home that requires demolition. It’s best to become familiar with the valley in-person, then when something does come on the market that is a preferred neighborhood or style, clients are ready to move quickly on it, even if they are not in town. I have seen buyers miss-out on things because they don’t move quickly enough, while other buyers are savvy enough to place an offer immediately.
It sounds like buyers should be prepared to make an offer without physically seeing a house?
Devon: It’s amazing how much you can comprehend about a house through FaceTime. We’ll FaceTime with clients and walk them through houses. Harder to capture in a video, though, is a neighborhood; that’s why we recommend that our clients really familiarize themselves with the general market when they are here, in person.
What’s a common mistake you see new homeowners make?
Devon: Nine times out of ten, when people remodel a house they’ve just bought, they spend more money on a project than they’ll be able to get out of it. Or they’ll customize a house too much. People should do what they love, but should also think about, or at least have the awareness, of how a remodel may or may not appeal to future buyers. We’re there for buyers before, during, and after a transaction and want to advise them properly. We encourage clients to discuss with us how remodel projects may affect the home’s value should they decide to sell it. We want to make sure clients get the most of out their property, for the duration of their ownership.
How have you seen the Jackson Hole real estate market change?
Devon: Vacant land has made a comeback in the last six to eight months. It was the last segment of the market to recover. People are buying and building now because they can’t find existing homes that suit their preferences. The number of available properties is very limited. Many buyers are looking for a mountain modern look, but they may need to build it themselves.
What are inventory levels like?
Devon: We’ve always had a lack of inventory in Jackson, but it’s even more the case now, especially for locals looking to buy their first homes. When looking at properties in the lower end of the price range, buyers need to understand they’ll not likely find their dream homes. However, they will to get out of the rental market and become homeowners. As price-points increase, inventory remains an issue, precisely why we’re seeing buyers seeking vacant land, where they can build their dream homes.
What attracts you to real estate?
Devon: Even though we’re technically doing the same thing every day—selling property—every transaction is different. I learn something new from each one. And I like helping people. Whether it’s your first, second or third home, it is a big decision. It’s rewarding to supply our clients the information they need to make good decisions for themselves and their families.