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Real Estate Roundtable

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EBS interviewed five locals – two realtors, a banker, and a builder – for beta on the area’s real estate market.

Here’s their take on the future of the Big Sky market, and how buyers and sellers can use that information to their advantage. Their responses have been edited for clarity and length.

– Shawna Winter is the managing broker of the dedicated sales team for Lone Mountain Land Company.
– Stacy Osorrio is a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.
– Joe Miller is branch president of First Security Bank.
– John Seelye is president of Big Sky Build.

Global and national economic conditions indicate that we’re headed for a market correction. How do you think Big Sky’s real estate market will be impacted?

Shawna Winter: I feel that so long as we have good product that is priced accurately and strategically to the market, we should be OK. I think our location and phenomenal properties will work in our favor, even if we have to pull back a little bit with some of our development plans.

I branched off and started my own real estate company when the market was at its worst in 2009 and 2010, and I was able to sell a lot of my properties so long as I was strategic with my pricing.

Stacy Ossorio: Big Sky is an unusual real estate market because it’s primarily a second-home vacation market. I think our sales will be OK because our market draws buyers from a variety of marketplaces, not just Wall Street.

Joe Miller: If we do have a correction – which is still possible, depending on what news you’re looking at – that means our clients’ disposable income drops, which would mean a slowdown in Big Sky.

The wildcard is that with the high school, the hospital and new businesses opening, we have a greater need for more people in Big Sky. We still haven’t seen an increase in inventory for people to buy or rent, so I think the housing shortage could reduce some of the aggressiveness of the recession we saw in 2008.

John Seelye: I think that’s what could slow down the exponential growth we’ve seen since 2010, but I do think people will still see the value of investing in the Big Sky market. After the last recession … people are putting more of an emphasis on quality of life, which Big Sky promotes.

According to local developers, as many as 3,000 new units will be built in Big Sky in the near future. What do you think the area will look like in 10–20 years?

S.W.: I hope we approach development as thoughtfully and creatively as possible so it happens harmoniously with nature.

S.O: I think right now developers are trying to lead the market with their version of market demand … If demand for 3,000 units isn’t there, the market will do what it always does and it will make an adjustment.

If there’s a variety of housing, this will be a thriving community. If developers choose to build only high-end housing, then we will have a part-time community. What we really need is developers to provide housing for people who are going to create neighborhoods, people who are going to live here fulltime.

J.M.: As more people come to Big Sky and invest in vacation homes, the inventory will dry up and prices will rise. I suppose that will make it harder for working families to live in Big Sky.

I think it will be a great vacation community, but I don’t know how we will avoid Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s situation, where there aren’t many opportunities for the average, everyday person. One positive aspect of the last downturn is that a lot of local families were able to purchase homes in Big Sky. If the market continues to rise, they could start looking at alternatives outside of Big Sky.

J.S.: Hopefully it’s white in the winter and green in the summer. Big Sky has been found and it’s going to grow. There will be growing pains, but I think in the end Big Sky will benefit from what’s going to happen in the next 10-20 years. As a fulltime, year-round resident and business owner here, I think we have a hell of a lot to look forward to.

Right now, Big Sky is in an interesting situation: inventory and interest rates are low, land value and building costs are high, there’s a large amount of planned development, and the economic market is weakening. How do you see those elements playing out here?

S.W.: I think there’s no time like the present if you are interested in getting involved. As long as developers can be smart about the product and the pricing, I think the rest will take care of itself.

J.M.: None of us really knows, although it could impact the number of people commuting from elsewhere and the amount of rental properties available. Last time we had a downturn, the reduction in the construction workforce opened up rental properties. Maybe that will make it a little easier for some people to live in Big Sky.

What’s your advice to buyers and sellers?

S.W.: If you’re interested in getting involved in Big Sky, now’s the time. Sellers should make sure that their properties are priced and positioned to sell within a very reasonable timeframe.

S.O.: This is the time to buy for people who have been waiting to purchase a property in Big Sky, especially in the $400,000 to $700,000 range. That’s always been a very viable market in Big Sky and that buyer should jump in. Sellers should be careful that they don’t overprice their property – they could miss their opportunity to sell in a timely fashion.

J.M.: Sit down with a banker or a financial planner and go through the numbers. If you find a property that you’re happy with and you’re not stretched too thin financially, go ahead and buy it. For sellers, it sure seems like a great time to sell. The single-family residence market has come close to full recovery if it hasn’t already, and the condo market is not far behind.

Joseph T. O'Connor is the previous Editor-in-Chief for EBS newspaper and Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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