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Real estate column: This is Big Sky

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A re-creation

By Eric Ossorio Contributor

“Ahhhh… is that Lone Mountain?”
asked Kuan, my son’s good friend, as we
drove west onto the Spur Road from
Highway 191. The peak was bathed in
moonlight, the night sky a dark greyblue
backdrop pierced by stars.

The boys slept on the drive from Gallatin
Field Airport, so it’d been mostly
quiet. Kuan grew up in Nanjing, China,
and this was his first trip to Big Sky.

Now a college student in Washington
D.C., he’s visited and seen many places
in the U.S. Under his next breath the
“wow” was almost inaudible, but

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” my son asked.
The lights from the Meadow Village
and the Town Center came into view.
The Meadow golf course looked like a
white blanket scattered with diamonds,
and the marquee identifying the new
Lone Peak Cinema registered its unmistakable

Gallatin Field’s recent expansion is a testament to the
vision of the Airport Authority Board,
which stuck with a plan to ensure the
“Last Best Place” would be ready and
available when travelers recovered
from the news cycles after 2008. They
broke ground in 2009 and opened in
July 2011.

Since the dark days of 2008, Big Sky
has seen ups and downs, but the underlying
message remained one of defiant

The past three years have been a
recreation. Life cycles are part of the
ecosystem and food chain here in
Montana. It’s like fly-fishing: caddis
hatch, stonefly or nymph… sometimes
nothing works other times just about
anything does, but there is always
something emerging.

The cycle claimed the OYC (Old
Yellowstone Club), only to give us
the NYC (New Yellowstone Club).
Moonlight emerged from Chapter 11,
though the fate of its golf course isn’t
clear. Then in October, the owners of
Spanish Peaks Holdings LLC sought
protection by declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy,
a liquidation path as opposed to

Some short sale activity has kept us
on our toes and forced a few mortgage
bankers to pull out atlases and figure
out where Big Sky and Montana are
located so they could assess what they
were about to reclaim. The impact of
these “distress” sales was apparent and
gave some direction to the market, and
may have even helped expedite the
process toward a more level market.

Barring anything too far out, Big Sky
seems to have moved past the worst
of it. Choices are many, and absorption
for improved property increased
by 30 percent this year.

In 2010, there were 139 sold homes,
condos and town-homes, with a
sold value of $71 million. By early
December 2011, 182 closed sales
totaled a sold value of $95.6 million
for the year, and there were 12 more
“pending sales”.

On the raw land front, the numbers
show a slightly different story: 213 listed
lots valued at $190 million. During
2010, there were 36 closed land sales
worth $15.2 million, 12 of which were
in the Big EZ or the Club at Spanish
Peaks. In 2011, there were 26 closed
sales valued at $11.5 million, with
seven in the Club at Spanish Peaks and
the Big EZ. The demand for land has
declined as the price point for already
built product reset and the choices
expanded. However, as building costs
have realigned, we expect to see more
land sales and custom home starts.

I’ve been a student of the real estate
market here since 1993. Sometimes
it’s like hiking one of the beautiful
nearby trails: No matter how familiar
you think you are with the trail, there’s
always something new to see, a new
twist, corner or crossing, and the experiences
just keep getting better.

With the moon positioned over the
summit of Lone Mountain, we wound
west up the Spur Road, upwards into
the night. Faint lights were visible
on Big Horn and in the Bowl, as the
groomers lay down corduroy. It’s
always nice to be in Big Sky.

Eric Ossorio is a Managing Broker for Prudential Montana Real Estate in Big Sky, where he works with this wife and partner, Stacy. He’s been a Big Sky resident for 20 years and a broker for 35. Having almost seen it all, he sees no reason to live anywere else. (406) 539-9553

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