Montana’s Big Sky Country offers luxury properties and the good news is that there is even inventory. Montana’s waterfront homes, horse ranches, and ski properties sell briskly in Whitefish and Big Fork. Still, Montana isn’t seeing the same bidding wars that characterize the hot real estate markets across the country.
Jeff Raper, the real estate agent at National Parks Realty, has been selling real estate in Whitefish and Bigfork for more than two decades and says the areas offer buyers the best value compared to other mountain resorts. “We have four seasons that are attracting buyers here,” he says. “Our market is on fire, but compared to other markets we are still a great value.” According to current MLS data, in Flathead County, where Whitefish and Bigfork are located, the median sale price for single-family homes is $1,827,591. That’s far below the prices in mountain resorts like Vail and Aspen.
Your money goes a long way in the Whitefish area. National Parks Realty has listed a 3,834 square foot custom ranch on over 40 acres with 950 feet of Whiteriver frontage. The asking price: $2,499,000. “We’ve seen a 483 percent increase in active listings from the start of the year,” notes Raper.
About 90 of the sales this year were in the range of more than a million. “We are a recreational resort and a lifestyle-driven market,” explains Raper. He points out location, location, location: “We are close to skiing and fishing and we are also at the west entrance to Glacier National Park. There are 13 lakes here and we are only an hour from Costco.”
This past Memorial Day weekend, most real estate offices were closed, but real estate agents and brokers continued to display properties by appointment. Today, the buyer profile in Montana is an affluent out-of-state type who wants to make the area their full-time residence. “Sales in the luxury market are brisk. Buyers are looking for waterfront homes and viewing properties in Whitefish and Bigfork,” said Denise Lang, an agent at National Parks Realty.
Iron Horse Golf Club, minutes from Glacier National Park in Whitefish, appeals to the upscale and ultra-luxury buyer as a second or third home. A 9,800 square foot home on 2.7 acres is mountain architecture at its finest. There is a creek on the property and two springs. Current prices are $8.5 million.
Valery Neuman, a top luxury real estate agent in the Palm Springs area, and her husband Don built their dream home on Iron Horse Golf Club several years ago. “Iron Horse is very family oriented with concierge facilities and one of the most beautiful golf courses,” says Neuman, who makes the drive from Palm Springs to Iron Horse with her two dogs. “Everything from golf, tennis, hiking and skiing is nearby. Yet it is only five minutes from the quaint town of Whitefish,” she adds. Neuman points out a waiting list to join there.
Traveling to and from the area is convenient, which appeals to buyers. Glacier International Airport services Whitefish and Bigfork. There are direct flights with major airlines from San Diego, Denver, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Houston and San Francisco.
Remember that the Whitefish and Bigfork markets are different from the glitz of Vail and Aspen. Life moves at a slower pace there. National Parks Realty agent Mike Anderson grew up in Whitefish. “My advice to people looking to buy property here is to understand first that this is a rural market and be patient.”
As city dwellers look for more space and real estate for their money, we expect sales activity and prices in Whitefish and Bigfork to continue.
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