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Town hall real estate panelists discuss growth with vision, purpose

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BIG SKY – Big Sky is in a unique position to choose its own destiny, according to panelists on the 12th Big Sky Virtual Town Hall on the evening of Aug. 10. Hosted by Explore Big Sky, the town hall featured four speakers who offered perspectives into the current climate of the real estate market in Southwest Montana, including Robyn Erlenbush, Broker/Owner of ERA Landmark; Eric Ladd, Owner of L&K Real Estate/CEO; Ania Bulis, VP of Sales for Big Sky Real Estate Company; and Mike Magrans, Principal of Ernst & Young.

Bulis kicked the evening off, noting that Big Sky is following a trend that mirrors many other ski towns as people migrate from urban areas. She said buyers are more often making multiple offers on a single property when normally they wouldn’t.

Ladd spoke of the cyclical nature of real estate and how COVID-19 has forced our market into an unexpected upswing after an unsure pause. He said that historically Big Sky trends 60 to 80 percent behind more mature markets such as Telluride, Colorado and Bend, Oregon, a pattern that held true this time around as well.

“All you have to do is look at the license plates here to see what’s happened,” Ladd said. He noted the “brother-sister” relationship of Bozeman and Big Sky have, estimating that roughly 3,000 workers a days commute from Bozeman to Big Sky for their careers on a daily basis.

Ladd said Big Sky was built in reverse—first the resort and clubs were constructed, then the town itself followed suit. This provides the Big Sky community with the unique opportunity to create it’s own destiny. Although the ski lifts spinning provides a reason to be here, Ladd believes we’ve grown beyond that singular attraction.

“We get to choose our own destiny,” Ladd said. Of his hopes for the community in 20 years, he said: “I hope Big sky looks like the most cutting edge, most well thought out, planned town in the Rockies because we have no excuse to not to execute that.”

Erlenbush of ERA Landmark Real Estate, oversees branches in Bozeman, Big Sky, Ennis and Livingston and is a Montana native. She possesses great knowledge of the market and said that the behavior of buyers currently, mimics that witnessed after 9/11, as families in metropolises flee from density and are reevaluating what is important in their lives. As theaters and other entertainment amenities in cities remain closed, people are looking to the outdoors so naturally, they come to places like Big Sky, she explained.

Erlenbush had just finished co-chairing an $18 million campaign for Bozeman Health called Caring Forward. She said when COVID-19 hit, the organization had unsolicited gifts of over $4 million flow into the healthcare system allowing them to fast track ICU needs and finish constructing additional hospital beds at Big Sky Medical Center. 

“We are starting to recognize how interconnected we are as one greater community,” Erlenbush said of the generosity.

Magrans spoke of office spaces, and how COVID-19’s stay-at-home orders have helped us as a society reevaluate the time we spent in an office setting and how to make that time more productive. The market is showing so far that companies are keeping workers remote except for team collaboration or client meetings. He says the market is driven not only by people’s newfound lifestyle priorities, but also that interest rates are at an all time low and those moving out of cities have the cash to purchase homes in Montana.

All panelists provided the same insight to the Big Sky community—that we deserve a thoughtful, purposeful future. Whether we moved here because of the open spaces, wildlife, ski access or friendliness, those are the qualities we need to continue to carry forward into this growth.

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