By Brandon Walker EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Lone Mountain Land Company joined the Big Sky real estate scene in the fall of 2014. LMLC is a partner of both the Moonlight Club and the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, handling real estate happenings at each of the respective clubs.
LMLC employees were subject to a drastic change, similar to that of many Big Sky businesses, when their office space was closed on March 16 as a precaution due to COVID-19. After working remotely for roughly a month, a handful employees began trickling back into the LMLC office.
A lot transpired during that time in the world of real estate and Explore Big Sky recently spoke over the phone with LMLC Vice President of Planning and Development Bayard Dominick regarding the happenings of real estate development during a pandemic and its possible lasting effects on the industry.
Explore Big Sky: What was it like to transition from your daily routine of communicating with developers in the office to suddenly having to work with them from home?
Bayard Dominick: “It was more suddenly interfacing with all our engineers, contractors [and] architects, instead of having weekly in-person meetings, to weekly Zoom meetings and it actually was pretty efficient. I mean from the development side, we didn’t have a significant impact on what we do day-to-day, it was all via phone and computer and video conferencing instead of in-person, but a lot of what we do already is on the phone and via video conferencing because a lot of our architects and engineers aren’t in Big Sky anyway, so it wasn’t a huge change to be honest with you. Probably the biggest change was … we have an office here between our real estate development company and the sales team, we have like 40 people normally in the office … not interfacing with our day-to-day team members in person was probably the biggest change.”
EBS: From a business perspective, what will you remember most when you reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic?
B.D.: “Uncertainty and doubt, just like what’s coming next and how bad is it going to get and how much is it going to impact our business and how much is it going to impact our personal lives, just that uncertainty and you know there’s an anxiety around that uncertainty that still exists. It’s coming back more than it was, like a month ago I felt a lot less anxiety than I do today … One really cool aspect of the pandemic and staying at home, is it felt like Big Sky has grown closer as a community. We went walking in our neighborhood almost every day, we got to know our neighbors a lot better through the process. It was a really cool byproduct of this experience and I hope that it continues as we come out of the other side of this.”
EBS: LMLC purchased Buck’s T-4 before the pandemic disrupted life as we knew it. Did your team have any hesitations from that purchase when COVID-19 shut down places of business?
B.D.: “No, we were fully committed to doing it. We had made that commitment to the sellers and we’re moving forward. We know long-term we have huge belief in the long-term future of Big Sky and definitely believe in the Buck’s T-4 asset. [We] felt like the restaurant is such an incredible community asset that we were committed to getting that reopened and felt long-term that the Buck’s hotel and the potential development and employee housing potential there was such that we were moving forward regardless.”
EBS: Are prospective buyers opting to tour homes or properties virtually rather than in person due to COVID-19?
B.D.: “I don’t have any firsthand experience. I think there’s a lot of that happening definitely … and anecdotally I hear that people are buying properties site unseen, in terms of going there in person, but I don’t know what percentage of that’s true. I haven’t had that personal experience.”
EBS: Can you describe the effect that the pandemic has had on the real estate market?
B.D.: “I mean only anecdotally. My sense was that there were definitely some contracts that people were nervous about moving forward with but of all the developer product that we had under contract—almost all of the deals have moved forward and we’ve gotten several new ones and I think everybody’s as busy as they’ve ever been.”
EBS: Shoulder season fluctuations aside, do you believe the virus will continue to affect your business?
B.D.: “I think it’s going to affect all of our business in the way we deal with our day-to-day lives for the foreseeable future … Over the last two weeks in Big Sky we’ve seen a, you know, resurgence of people being committed to wearing masks and a larger percentage of people are wearing masks and people are being more diligent and I think that diligence is going to have to continue for a long time. Both in our daily lives and the way we manage our construction jobs and the way we interface with our contractors and engineers and it’s going to continue to be as much remote stuff as possible.”
EBS: If you could choose one aspect of life before the pandemic to restore, what would it be and why?
B.D.: “Live music. The ability for us to gather and see amazing live music on a regular basis is what I miss the most.”
EBS: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
B.D.: “Work for great mentors. That’s the key, is if you’re working for good, strong people who can teach you and teach you not only about business but how to treat people, those are the people you want to be working for and those are the ones [that] you aspire to be.”