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Making it in Big Sky: Triple Creek Realty

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Supervising Broker/Owner Jerry Pape Jr. shares responsibility for the business with his parents, Becky Pape and Jerry Pape. PHOTO COURTESY OF JERRY PAPE JR.

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Back when Lone Mountain Trail—locally known as the Spur Road—was an unpaved gravel road and oil dripped off the chairlifts at Big Sky Resort, Triple Creek Realty was doing business.

As Big Sky’s oldest independent real estate company, Triple Creek Realty has witnessed many changes in the area. The company was founded in 1974 and is now owned and operated by Jerry and Becky Pape, along with their son Jerry Pape Jr. The Papes purchased a condo in Big Sky in 1972 and moved to the area in 1973. 

Initially, there was a limited amount of product until former logging land became available as recreational land, according to Becky. Since then, Triple Creek Realty has weathered a building moratorium in Big Sky, a recession, and now, a global pandemic.  

Most recently, according to Jerry Pape Jr., Triple Creek Realty closed a deal for the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office to purchase the After Zero-In Indoor Shooting Range located at Four Corners for more office space.

Explore Big Sky talked with the Pape family to learn more about Triple Creek Realty and how the business has changed and grown over the years.

Explore Big Sky: How has the real estate industry changed over the years?

Becky Pape: “Well, it’s changed dramatically. Initially there was a limited amount of product. In other words, Big Sky, the resort that was going to be developed by those corporations, was limited in acreage. … And then…the Porcupine Exchange occurred, where certain tracks of lands [were] acquired that were formerly Burlington Northern [Railway] pieces of land that they used to log. They said, there’ll be more money in recreational land than there was in logging any further. And so, those lands were available for sale, those are the 20-acre parcels, the 40, the 200-acre parcels and so on. … All of a sudden, the door opened, and everybody realized they could develop. However, subsequently, there have been many downturns in the market, as well as just recently, an eight-year recession. … And so, things would get started and then stop. … And, by the same token, we were just trucking along doing real estate, selling what pretty much already existed. … So that’s sort of the evolving history. And it’s been a real estate market of starts and stops.”

EBS: How has the pandemic affected the real estate market and your business?

BP: “Oh, it’s true it’s taken off like crazy. … Whatever is available, and there’s very little inventory, people are buying, just to have a place to stay, to get out of the way. … But they’re fleeing here, because they see it as a safe place to shelter. Although, again, as you know, and I know, the amenities are somewhat limited. … And that has somewhat controlled the growth. But it has escalated dramatically now. And actually, it has escalated faster than the infrastructure has been put in place. So that’s where it stands, there’s very little inventory. There’s no mid-range inventory. There’s very little low-range inventory. … There’s so many [listings] for what would be deemed to be ridiculous prices. But the market is supporting it, because people will do anything to get a place. And that’s what’s happening to the real estate market. So, you know, we’ve had our boom-and-bust cycles many times. And the last one was, I think things sort of collapsed in 2000, then we had the recession until 2008 or 2009. And now we’re in another boom, mainly virus-caused, and anything listed, even ridiculously priced, is selling.”

EBS: How is Triple Creek Realty different from other real estate companies?

Jerry Pape Jr.: “What differentiates what we do, we have a consulting firm that people pay us to work through complicated issues in real estate, land development issues, things along those lines. We’re the only one who does that in the state. … But that’s one of the other things that differentiates a lot of our organization. … We are not a franchise, we’re solely owned, and we provide a different level of training. … And so, when you’re working with someone in our organization they have a very different level of training, hundreds and hundreds of hours that an agent has before we’re going to let them use a pen and sell you something.”

EBS: What is your plan for the future of the company?

JP Jr.: “If you were to come to work for me, I would be paying for you to go through your test and your education, I’d be covering all of those costs. You’d be working as part of a team, so commission money would be split up, but you would make more consistent money, and potentially more money. So, it’s a very different model and one that’s considerably more successful. … If I showed up at your door as the broker with four agents, you would pay the same commission amount but you get five people working for you. … This method provides better coverage and service. It provides for better training experiences for new agents.”

EBS: What is your best business advice?

JP Jr.: “You can’t accomplish a plan you don’t have. The advice is to prioritize reserves, debt management, and equity acquisition in that order. Two of my favorite quotes come from golf. ‘Statistically speaking, you miss 100 percent of the putts that you don’t take.’ My favorite quote comes from Gary Player, ‘The more I practice, the luckier I get.’ In business, the advice we give is, in closing, you can’t plan for everything, but that doesn’t mean you should plan for nothing.”

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