If you love the mountain air, ski slopes or drifting on a boat and want all of that near home, Whitefish, Montana could be your destination. The area offers a paradise for those who love the outdoors. Within a few miles are nearly 500 lakes, the Whitefish Mountain Resort and the Glacier National Park.
Whitefish offers a quaint, small-town home living. “When you are in the mountains it’s like being in heaven,” said Tom Thomas, owner of Realty Executives of Whitefish and the Flathead Valley.
The Whitefish Housing Market
The market here is split between resort-style living and the quaint railroad logging town. Residential options include a diverse array of products from million-dollar homes on sprawling acres to townhomes and condominiums in close proximity.
Like the rest of the country, Whitefish suffered the tremors that shook the foundation of the nation’s housing market. Average sale prices for resort homes fell 40 to 50 percent from its peak price in 2007, said Bill Milner, senior real estate agent at Whitefish Real Estate, Inc. But homes around town occupied by year-round residents took a softer hit because of demand and supply ratio.
“You could pick up a home that was listed for a million dollars four years ago for $600,000 to $700,000,” he said. “But, if you want a home that was listed earlier for $250,000, you would pay $200,000.”
“It’s a great time for buyers,” Thomas said. A lot of sellers are holding off on selling because of crumbling prices. But for the available inventory there are deals galore. The attractive prices are luring investors from across the border.
“Every day is a ‘hug a Canadian day’ for us,” Milner said. “They have kept our retail, real estate, hotel and motel industry vibrant. We are glad they are helping us out considerably, and we like them more everyday.”
Milner predicts the market will pick up in the summer. So, if you are looking to buy there, now is the time to invest before prices start trending upward.
Tips for Navigating the Whitefish Real Estate Market
Hire a reliable, local agent: You need a knowledgeable advocate on your side to ensure that you are getting the best value for your dollar. “If you don’t hire a real estate agent, you are looking for trouble,” Thomas said. “It’s like being your own attorney.”
Hire an agent who specializes in the market and who has experience in short sales and foreclosures in case you want to go that way. You may find a property online, but only a qualified agent can give you the dirt on the house so that you have a bargaining power, Milner said.
“Remember the seller pays the agent fee, so it’s really important for you to hire an agent and maximize your purchasing power,” he said. “Why pay $250,000 when you can get away paying $225,000?”
Get pre-approved: Before getting into the market, get yourself approved for a loan, Milner said. That way you can work within your budget and not go over. Preferably work with a local lender, who knows the market and will provide you with the best service.
Scout the territory: Know what you are looking for before you venture out. Thomas advises buyers to fill up a tank of gas and drive around the area to figure out the locations and neighborhoods that best fits their lifestyle.
For sellers: Price your property right. Study the peak price of 2007 and find out how much prices have fallen. Figure out the position of your house against your competitors, Milner said. If you don’t price it reasonably, your home could be sitting with a “for sale” sign in the yard for a year, Milner said.
Stage your home: Clean out all the junk before your put your home up for sale. Strip it of any personal memories, Milner said. All those refrigerator magnets from your travels and vacations should be taken down, he said. Make your home stand out and fix all broken parts.
Offer some incentive: If the house needs a wood stove, tell the seller you will pay for it, Milner said. “People like spending other people’s money,” he said. So, throw in a big screen TV, stereo system or wood stove to pique the buyer’s interest.