A quick peek at real estate in Big Sky
ERA, Engel & Völkers, and Big Sky Real Estate provide perspective
Is the real estate market still on fire? How does 2022 compare to recent years in Big Sky? To get a better idea of the current environment in real estate, we spoke with Kirk Dige at ERA Landmark Real Estate, Ania Bulis of Big Sky Real Estate, and Eric Ossorio of Engel and Völkers to paint an approximate picture of what’s going on around town.
Big Sky Real Estate, unlike the other two companies, is a developer owned real estate business that focuses on Spanish Peaks and Moonlight Basin. Lone Mountain Land Company builds properties and Big Sky Real Estate sells them. ERA and Engel and Völkers help buyers and sellers in the broader marketplace.
Using MLS (Multiple Listing Service), which is a database realtors use for statistics in Gallatin County, a realtor and I looked at some of the data points before and after the pandemic to get some sort of perspective on trends. For comparison purposes, 2019 was the last “normal” year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
STATISTICS USING MLS
To get a better idea of what’s going on using data, we pulled up the median sales price over the past 10 years in Big Sky using MLS. From 2012 to 2020, the median sales price—not the average—went from under $500,000 dollars to over $2 million dollars. That is about a 300% price increase over a decade.
Next, we pulled up the historic number of active listings in the greater Big Sky area over the last five years for comparison from 2017-2021. This data revealed that the current real estate market contains less inventory, or less properties, over the last five years. This lack of inventory is driving up competition between buyers and raising costs.
Jan. 2017: 455 active listings
Jan. 2018: 411 active listings
Jan. 2019: 305 active listings
Jan. 2020: 360 active listings
Jan. 2021: 207 active listings
TRENDS FROM ANIA’S PERSPECTIVE
Ania Bulis, founding broker of Big Sky Real Estate, believes Big Sky is experiencing similar trends occurring across the country. “I don’t think it’s just Big Sky [that’s dealing with scarcity]. If you look throughout the United States right now, and you look particularly at resort towns in the mountains, so sort of the Rocky Mountains… or you look at beach properties, coastal properties, there is equal scarcity in both of those areas,” said Bulis.
The scarcity, Bulis believes, was onset by COVID-19. “When COVID came people were either fleeing to the mountains or fleeing to the coasts, and in doing so, those that could purchased properties in those areas... We’re in the aftermath of what I call the primary COVID-19 effect on real estate,” said Bulis.
Who is buying property in Big Sky you might ask? Bulis also explained, “If you follow the flights, the direct flights, that gives you a really good indicator of where our buyer pool is coming from. So, you know, in the past we didn’t have a great pull from Texas, but that’s changing because of direct flights out of Texas. Chicago, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, continue to be strong. The West Coast, Los Angeles, and San Francisco continue to be strong,” said Bulis.
These higher costs combined with lack of options are contributing to the affordable housing crisis, explained Bulis. Young folks hoping to buy their first homes and settle down—an image of the American Dream for previous generations—are finding it increasingly difficult to attain the status quo because it's not affordable.
TRENDS FROM KIRK’S PERSPECTIVE
“I’ve never seen anything even close to this rapid [price] acceleration,” said Kirk Dige, who has worked in Big Sky real estate for 35 years. Something that sold for $750,000 nine months ago, explained Dige, now is selling for $1 million dollars.
For example, Dige explained, he was working recently on some local condos. “The last one sold for $625,000, which was twice as much as anything ever sold before, probably or more. And then they jumped to $950,000 or $875,000. That’s a huge jump... We’re seeing sellers trying to find the ceiling,” said Dige.
Although COVID-19 has played a role, Dige believes a lot of people have forgotten about some of the factors going on anyway. “A lot of people kind of have forgotten... you know there were things that were going on anyway. For example, the baby boom. A lot of folks retiring and sometimes we just point to COVID as the only cause. It [COVID-19] just accelerates it. ‘Let’s do it now instead of five years from now,’ said Dige.
One of the consequences of the higher prices, in Kirk’s opinion, is folks that are selling their properties are leaving Big Sky because they cannot afford to buy back in.
TRENDS FROM OSSORIO’S PERSPECTIVE
Eric Ossorio, of Engel and Volkers in Big Sky, pointed out that the real estate market in Jan. 2022 feels a bit different than 2020- 2021. “If someone says it’s on fire, I think about these big fires that are cutting everything down in their wake. It’s a toolshed, it’s a house, it’s a club, it’s gone. We’re not seeing that here. The market is pretty uneven. It’s more like lightning strikes or brush fires because there’s just not much inventory really,” said Ossorio.
In normal years, the Big Sky area typically sees 350 residential sales per year, explained Ossorio. From Jan. to Dec. of 2020, 651 residential properties—almost double—were sold in Big Sky. In 2021, the number dropped back down to 372 total sales.
Ossorio explained that, over the last year or two, a lot of people who had less complicated reasons to sell in Big Sky have sold. “What we’re going to start seeing in the future is properties being sold because the market is high and people have now decided, ‘Hey I’m 65 or 70, I probably wasn’t going to sell but $3 million dollars for my house, I will live in Floria,’” said Ossorio.
According to realtors in Big Sky, there are few local properties for sale and the ones that are being built are being prebought. This is creating tension between buyers (buyer overlap) and increasing the costs of real estate substantially.
Over the last decade, the median sales cost of residential properties rose in Big Sky 300%. Folks who are selling their properties are still trying to find how high buyers are willing to pay (finding the ceiling). Most of these trends are making the dream of owning a home or condo more difficult to attain for young folks, who are seeking affordable options to cut out a living in Big Sky.