Though not everyone will be celebrating Christmas this week, it's safe to say that most will be spending time with family and friends. Check out these tips to help the environment, and keep you fire-safe, during the holidays.
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most spectacular wonders of the world, and we are fortunate to have it essentially in our back yard. But, did you know that in addition to millions of visitors passing through there in the summer, it is also open to the public in the winter? Except for a few weeks in the spring and fall when the park is closed to public traffic, you can experience the wonder during all seasons. While you are making your plans to be in Big Sky this winter to enjoy skiing at Big Sky Resort or cross country and sleigh-riding adventures at Lone Mountain Ranch, consider a visit to Yellowstone to round out your trip.
You can explore the park on your own by cross country skiing into the park, and within it from one of their year-round lodging facilities; you can take a guided snowmobile tour; or you can view it from the warmth and comfort of a Snowcoach. The tours are available to various places in the park including the Old Faithful area and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. You can make it a day trip, or enjoy several days staying in the Snow Lodge or other hotel within the park. If you prefer to drive yourself, the section of road between Mammoth Hot Springs (North entrance) and Cooke City (East Entrance) is open on a year round basis. Below is a collection of information to help you make your plans. Don't wait, reservations for the tours and lodging within the park book early! West Yellowstone Snowcoach and Snowmobile Tours:Buffalo Bus Snowcoach TourBackcountry Adventures SeeYellowstone.comYellowstone AdventuresTeton Valley AdventuresYellowstone National Park Lodging This winter, the National Park Service is renovating the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins, so they will be closed. However, the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins are open and currently taking reservations for the winter season. If you are looking to stay in the park for a few days, consider booking a Snowcoach to transport you to Old Faithful where you can cross country ski or snowshoe, stay in the Lodge or a Cabin, and travel back out again on a Snowcoach. Cross Country Skiing/Snowshoeing There are a number of companies that offer guided ski and snowshoe tours into the park, including and Yellowstone Expeditions and Yellowstone Ski Tours. If you'd like to explore on your own, check out the National Park Service information found here.
Cold mornings followed by warm sunny afternoons must mean it's fall in Montana. And with occasional white-tipped mountains, it reminds us that winter is on its way. Just like we (try to) prepare ourselves for endless ski runs at high elevation, we need to get our homes ready for whatever winter has in store for us this year. In order to protect your investment and keep it in tip-top shape, consider these five suggestions to get your home ready for winter:
Prepare the home's exterior: Making sure everything is in good shape on the outside will help keep the "weather" on the outside, where it belongs. Check gutters to make sure they are clear. Ensure that roof shingles and siding are secure; high winds can loosen them over time. If you have heat tape or something similar to prevent ice dams on the roof, ensure that it's in working order and secure before it's covered in snow so it will be effective. Drain irrigation systems, and all exterior spigots if they aren't frost proof. Water can freeze and crack the fixture. Weatherproof doors and windows: A simple and inexpensive way to make sure cold air isn't seeping in is by making sure the weather strips on doors and windows are in good shape. That means not cracked, in one piece, and fitting snugly when the door or window closes. In older homes, adding storm doors and windows adds another layer or weather protection and helps keep energy costs down. Check the heating system: Furnaces and other heating sources should be serviced annually. Furnace filters need to be cleaned, and the efficiency should be monitored to make sure it's operating effectively. Gas-burning fireplaces and stoves should be checked and cleaned. Companies like Ambient Air Solutions offer maintenance programs to keep your home on an annual schedule so you don't have to remember.
Maintain Chimneys: There's nothing like relaxing in front of a cozy fireplace or wood stove after a successful day on the mountain, but chimneys that are used regularly need to be kept clean of dangerous creosote buildup to prevent chimney fires. Have your chimney swept and inspected for foreign objects each year before you use it; and if you own a wood stove, make sure and clean it on a very regular basis to keep it energy-efficient. Stock up on winter necessities: Don't wait until the last minute to make sure you have salt or ice melt, shovels and other handy items for winter. Many of us wait until the first big storm to rush out and buy them, but we often find the stores are out of stock. It's never too early once you begin to see those items in the stores. And don't forget things like candles and matches, and batteries for flashlights in the event of a power loss. For those who would like some assistance in completing these important items, property management companies like Two Pines Properties and Big Sky Home Management are great resources to help you. Remember, the sooner you prepare your home for winter, the sooner you can start praying for snow!
Montana is well known as a fly fishing destination, drawing people come from all over the world to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, be it fishing, skiing, hiking, camping, or anything else outdoors. Local teacher and avid fisherman, John Hannahs, tells us what makes fly fishing in the Big Sky area so special. Watch the video.
With gorgeous peaks as the backdrop and a world-famous fly-fishing river babbling through the trees, Gallatin Gateway is the quintessential Montana community. Only twelve miles southeast of thriving Bozeman, Gallatin Gateway is close to the international airport, Big Sky Ski Resort, Yellowstone National Park, and plenty of wilderness to hike, bike, ski, fish, and relax. The local community is friendly and passionate about the beautiful outdoors and the being involved in the culture of nearby Bozeman and Belgrade. Gallatin School, established in 1884, enrolls approximately 150 students per year in grades K-8 and these students have shown higher than average student scores in reading, math, and science. The community is small and intimate, but has plenty to see and do for everyone: Little Bear School House Museum This adorable one room schoolhouse has been restored and turned into a museum to replicate what school looked like in 1912. Take a look at local memorabilia from the local baseball team, old lunch boxes, and an antique merry-go-round. Axtell Bridge A destination place for anglers as well as those looking to ditch the heat, this beautiful bridge through the trees and over the Gallatin River is a great place to spend the day by the river. Pack a picnic, a book, or a few flies for the rod and take a dip in the cool waters. Inn on The Gallatin Just down the beautiful Gallatin Canyon is the famous Inn on The Gallatin, a resort with cabins, campsites, and a wonderful cafe. Established in 1955, the Inn is a tourist and local favorite for its iconic vintage signs and it’s delicious food. Gallatin Gateway is truly the “gateway” to the mountains and your next Montana adventure. Whether you are looking to live in the area year-round or own your mountain escape, let our agents show you the beauty of southwest Montana.
What better way to spend a gorgeous warm day than on a pristine golf course? When one thinks of Montana they may not think of great golfing, but Montana is very lucky to have championship courses with gorgeous views, that are without crowds, and that remain challenging to even those with the lowest handicaps. Grab the clubs and make the rounds to the Montana links!
Big Sky, Montana Golf Courses
Big Sky Resort Golf Course Combine classic links-style golf and the stunning natural beauty of Big Sky country to witness a golf experience like no other: the award winning scenic 18 hole par-72 golf course at Big Sky Resort. The Arnold Palmer course is 6,500 feet above sea level, offering long drives and spectacular views. Winding along the wildlife-rich banks of the West Fork of the scenic Gallatin River, tee up with deer, moose, and other wildlife as your gallery. Yellowstone ClubThe 18-hole "Yellowstone" course at the Yellowstone Golf Club facility features 7,300 yards of golfing from the longest tees for a par of 72. Designed by Tom Weiskopf, the Yellowstone golf course opened in 2005. Yellowstone Golf Club offers terrific views and challenging play for golfers at every skill level. Well-groomed fairways and greens keep Yellowstone Golf Club difficult yet friendly. Enjoy the incredible views of Lone Peak!
Spanish Peaks This course is a masterpiece of mountain design. Situated on 300 acres that utilize a true mountain golf experience. This course will test your ability on the fairway and the greens. Located at 7,000 feet elevation, there is abundant wildlife and views of several mountain ranges. The Spanish Peaks course has excellent playability and keeps every golfer having fun. Reserve at Moonlight Basin The Reserve is a par-72 Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course that blends 8000 yards of nature-inspired golfing into an arresting high-elevation setting. As one of Jack Nicklaus’s finest alpine golf creations, each of the course's 18 holes perfectly frames an array of unique vistas. The course’s PGA Professional, Greg Wagner, is on hand to help members take their game to the next level with specialized clinics, tournaments, and private instruction.
Bozeman, Montana Golf Courses
Black Bull Run Tom Weiskopf, former British Open champion, and award-winning golf course architect, designed an amazing 19-hole, 7200 yard, par-72 championship course for Black Bull Community that is ultimately challenging yet eminently playable. In this signature 'modified links' style course, Tom has woven together native landscaping, an abundance of water features, and breathtaking backdrops to ensure each hole has a strong identity. He considers the bunker layout as being, "reminiscent of the style that was prevalent during the turn of the 20th century." Cottonwood Hills Established in 1984, Cottonwood Hills is the Gallatin Valley’s finest and foremost club open to the public. Admire the endless natural beauty and staggering mountain views while testing your skills on our 7,053 yard Premier Course, or delve into the game on the valley’s only 1,181 yard Executive par-3, perfect for the beginner and short game artist alike.
Anaconda, Montana Golf Course
Old Works A Jack Nicklaus Signature designed course, the Old Works Golf Course has been reborn on the site of Anaconda's historic century old copper smelter. Jack Nicklaus incorporated many historic relics in his signature design. With its affordability, course conditioning and friendly service, Old Works has built a reputation as one of the premiere daily fee golf experiences in the Northwest region.
Interested in gorgeous properties in Montana near a golf course? Or simply want to chat about golfing in Montana? Reach out to realtor and broker associate, Allison Gilley at Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty: 406-672-6115 and Allison@bigskysir.com.
Home is in-between the brown and white signs. Riverside Properties in S.W. Montana Fishing in Montana is something akin to heaven. From majestic rivers and lakes to crystal clear alpine streams, the vast amount of fishing in southern Montana is almost unfathomable. You can hopscotch one to the other, and never run out of fishing holes. Each area is unique and none less beautiful than the other. Bring your fishing gear along as we take you on a tour of riverside properties available in S.W. Montana.
The Madison River, one of the few rivers in the U.S. with the blue-ribbon designation, begins in Yellowstone National Park at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers. It then meanders 140 miles until it reaches the Missouri River in Three Forks, MT. The river flows into and Hebgen Lake, Quake Lake and Ennis Lake before continuing on through the narrow gorge of Beartrap Canyon and quietly ends at the confluents. Trout fishing is exceptional with large browns and rainbows. The Madison accommodates boating or wading and can be easily accessed by either. The upper Madison is all catch and release to maintain the wild trout populations. You can easily access the river from the towns of West Yellowstone, Big Sky and Ennis.
Beginning at Gallatin Lake, in the high mountains of Yellowstone National Park, the Gallatin River runs 115 miles to the Missouri in Three Forks, MT. The bulk of the river is closed to float fishing, which gives rise to some of the finest wade fishing waters in Montana with less fishing pressure. The scenery along the Gallatin is spectacular. Flowing through Gallatin Canyon, you’re surrounded by towering rock walls and National Forest. The river opens up and skirts the outside of Bozeman, MT where you’ll find a variety of accesses and scenic mountain ranges all around. The Gallatin Range and Spanish Peaks are riddled with mountain lakes and hungry fish. You’ll find good sized Cutthroats, the occasional Golden and even some Arctic Grayling; a beautiful and rare species with a shimmering blue dorsal fin found at Grayling Lake. These lakes are generally accessed by hiking; some a short in and back, while others could be multiple night backpacking trips. Some of the more popular lakes in this area include Hidden Lakes, a series of 8 beautiful waters. Golden Trout Lake, which, true to the name, is full of Golden’s. Lava Lake is home to some good sized cutthroats. Deer Lake and Diamond Lakes are a bit more challenging hikes, but well worth it. You’ll also want to check out Dudley and Albino Lakes which are more family friendly hikes. No matter if you are a spin, fly or bait fisherman, fishing these lakes will not disappoint.
Hyalite Canyon hosts alpine lakes, small streams and the beautiful reservoir tucked up at the base of the Gallatin Range. Hyalite, Emerald and Heather Lakes contain Cutthroat and Grayling, while Blackmore Lake maintains a nice supply of introduced Rainbow trout. Streams are full of Brookies and the reservoir is stocked with Rainbow and Brook trout. The reservoir maintains a no wake rule which keeps speeds low for trolling.
The Yellowstone has big fish and a lot of them; brown, rainbow, cutthroat and whitefish. Couple that with monster hatches and you can see why it’s one of the premier trout waters in the United Staes. Beginning in Yellowstone National Park it flows 692 miles into North Dakota where it meets the Missouri. This river is best experienced by boat, but is very technical, so until you know the river yourself, go with someone who is experienced in navigating these waters. From Yellowstone Park to Livingston, the river flows through Paradise Valley. True to it’s name, you’re surrounded by the Absaroka Mountains, high plains and cottonwood trees that endlessly line the river. Fall is utterly spectacular.
The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness area is 900,000 acres full of alpine lakes, streams and rivers. Lakes are home to Cutthroat, Brook, Rainbow and occasionally a Golden trout. Both the East Fork and West Fork Rosebud Creeks run into the Stillwater, which ends in Columbus, MT and joins the Yellowstone. The Boulder River, also stemming from the Absarokas, ends in Big Timber and joins the Yellowstone as well. Both of these rivers have less fishing pressure, but the locals know they are full of rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout.
For over one hundred years Montanans have been exploring the great “Big Sky” state on horseback. While most horseback riding has become a pleasure sport and activity, many people still rely on these majestic creatures for backcountry travel and ranch work. Horses are an integral part of Montana’s history and, as long as there are wide-open spaces, they will continue to be a part of the culture long into the future. Allison Gilley, a Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty agent with over twenty years of real estate experience, has been riding horses her entire life. Gilley says, “Montana is a very friendly horseback riding state with plenty of public land to ride. Also, many private properties are perfect for horseback riding. Montana even has entire subdivisions that are equestrian friendly with private trails and corrals.” Gilley loves the freedom to explore vast amounts of trails and landscapes in a short amount of time while horseback riding. She says learning to ride is a wonderful experience for an individual or an entire family, and Montana has plenty of professional companies who offer lessons for beginners to expert equestrians, such as Jake’s Horses (www.jakeshorses.com,) or Lone Mountain Ranch (www.lonemountainranch.com,) both in Big Sky.
If you are ready to start exploring the possibility of owning your very own slice of Montana, Gilley has exceptional horse properties available across the state, ready for your horses and adventuring spirit:
Whether you want to ride leisurely in the summer, take a clinic from the Montana-native “Horse Whisperer” Buck Brannaman, or go “loping through fresh powder snow on a blue bird day,” like Gilley, your perfect Montana escape awaits. Call Allison Gilley at Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty to inquire about properties or chat about her love of horseback riding: 406.995.2221.
Buying a home, whether it is your first or fifth, can be a daunting experience. In addition to the financial aspects, buyers must think about insurance, inspections, and the ever-changing market. Creating a great team of professionals early in the process will help immensely in the long run. While there are many checklists involved in buying a home, we have included a few key steps here that you can take to make the process as easy as possible.
Start saving for a down payment - A twenty percent down payment has been the traditional amount required by lenders for some time if the buyer does not want to purchase mortgage insurance, but that may not be necessary in every case. Brett Evertz, a loan officer and Assistant Vice President at Big Sky Western Bank says that sometimes, “You can put as little as 5% down if buying a primary home or just 10% if buying as a second home.” There are also options for rural development loans, which are very common in a state like Montana. “RD Loans” are financed through the USDA and are zero down payment loans. As with all loans, they are subject to credit and qualifications.
Talk to a loan officer - When you have made the decision to buy a home or property, finding a loan officer early in the process can help with the big picture. Brett says, “I encourage everyone to start the process with a lender as early as possible. That way, buyers know what they can afford and, potentially, be qualified for.” A loan officer can also help buyers navigate the complicated process of pre-qualification, such as understanding various loans, credit checks, and how to build credit. Sherri Kitto, an experienced mortgage lender with Rocky Mountain Bank says, “Pre-qualification before shopping for a home is essential and helps to expand negotiating power. It gives you an advantage by providing the power to bid quickly, ahead of competing buyers who may not know if they can afford or qualify to purchase the home, and assures the seller you are a serious and credible buyer.” When applying for a loan with a mortgage lender, be sure to have appropriate documents in hand. Sherri says a few to remember are: “Your residence history for the past two years, employment history for the past two years, any outstanding debt, savings/ investment/checking account statements and balances, information about real estate you own, and personal property information.”
Once approved, seek out a Realtor® - The experienced Realtors® at Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty are here to make the process enjoyable and stress-free. A Realtor® will be able to help you understand real estate jargon, help you find homes that fit your needs and price point, and will be there to answer questions throughout the entire process. The agents at Sotheby’s International Realty come equipped with years of experience, a world-class reputable brand, and the local knowledge necessary to find you the best home or property in Montana.
Make an offer and secure the mortgage - When you are ready to make an offer, this is where your team of dedicated professionals comes in handy. Your Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty agent will help you make an appropriate offer, negotiate the best possible price, and walk you through the steps of inspection and closure. Your loan officer will help you secure the mortgage with the best rates. Before you know it, you will have your dream home or property in Montana. Have more questions? The respected professionals at Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty are ready to help you with the buying process. Give us a call today at (406)995-2211 for experts in Big Sky, or for an agent in Bozeman call (406) 586-6688.
Mail Your Ballot Back Today! As the fastest growing school district in Montana, the Big Sky School District has seen enrollment for grades kindergarten through 4th grade grown from 98 students in 2006 to 157 in 2015/16. K-4 enrollment is projected to grow to 218 students by 2020. The purpose of the levy is to complete construction on the Ophir Elementary School. Ballots must be received via mail at the Gallatin County Elections office by May 3, 2016. For more information please check out this link: http://www.bssd72.org/notice-of-electionhttp://www.explorebigsky.com/18054-2/18054
Once again the Auction for the Arts at Lone Mountain Ranch was a huge success! Artists raised over $110,000 for the arts in Big Sky, Montana. Sponsored by Big Sky Sotheby's International Realty, this event is an amazing display of artist's talents. The Auction for the Arts was a “dynamic, multisensory artistic experience,” giving guests and local artists opportunities to interact, especially during the ‘quick-finish’ session during the live auction. The artists literally painted the final brush strokes or drew the last lines minutes before the auction began. The live auction included a sculptor as well as floral artist. Big Sky Local Artists included: Jackie Rainford Corcoran, Ari O., Jill Zeidler, Ryan Turner, Greg Darden, Shelly Bermont, Kira Fercho, Julio Freitas, Lori Elliot, Lorri Lagerbloom, and Heather Rapp. The Arts Council of Big Sky wishes for the community to “remain a beautiful place where the expression, enjoyment, and education of the Arts will inspire and sustain a healthy and vibrant community.” Programming provided by the Arts Council include the well-loved summer outdoor concert series, a local film festival, public art projects, and a new program to bring Lone Peak (Big Sky) high school students to Seattle to expose them to careers in the arts.
Cathy Gorman and Tim Cyr, broker/owners of Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty, targeted their scholarship toward a highly motivated student with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Cathy and Tim have lived and worked in Big Sky since the 1980s and have supported the school district for over 35 years. Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty is donating a scholarship for the second year. Soby Rain Haarman, of Lone Peak High School, earned an A- average overall throughout high school. Soby has worn the mantle of leadership in student government and National Honor Society. She has performed with many school groups: the Concert Band, the Jazz Ensemble, as well as school and community drama groups. Soby was inducted into the International Thespian Society, and she organized the student docents for the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. Recognized as a Rotary Youth Leader, Soby also attended the National Student Leadership Conference on Forensic Sciences at American University and the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists in Boston. Soby will study psychology at Seattle Pacific University and after that wants to continue study in forensics. Congratulations, Soby Rain Haarman.
With the booming housing market in Montana, options abound for buyers and building investors. Spec homes – short for “speculative homes” – are homes that are designed and built with the best housing characteristics of the market. Tim Cyr, a realtor with Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty, who is also in the process of building his own spec home outside of Bozeman, says spec homes “usually have all the bells and whistles to entice a buyer to buy.” Whether you are considering buying a spec home, or investing in building one, there are many benefits.
Benefits of buying a spec home
• Brand new home with the latest and greatest features available • Move-in ready, no time waiting for construction
• Oftentimes, some customization is available such as colors, cabinets, and flooring
Benefits of building a spec home
• An investment, being able to build a cost-effective, high-quality home for profit
• Ability to get creative – design the home that best fits the market, from your point of view
• Quick sales – minimal customization, limited contact with the buyer
Not sure which avenue is best for you? Ask yourself a few questions: are you looking for a home to live in? Are you wanting to flip a property quickly, as an investment? Do you know the market well? Tim admits there is a lot to consider, but diving into the world of spec homes is fun and beneficial to both buyers and builders. Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty has realtors, like Tim, with years of experience selling spec homes in Montana. Visit Tim’s website, or call his office, to learn more about his experience with spec homes – including building his own spec home – and get his expert advice. See if a spec home is right for you!
Big Sky, Montana is a growing destination for adventure-seeking vacationers, as well as full time residents looking to enjoy the outdoors and all that a resort town can offer. As fast as it’s growing, locating a property that can both meet your budget and satisfy your needs can sometimes be a challenge. The prospect of building a house from the ground up is exciting to some, yet daunting to others. Some want to be very involved, influencing every architectural angle, interior color and light fixture. Others would prefer to have options presented to them from which they can choose, putting more responsibility on the architect, builder and interior designer. Those who haven’t been through the process before often don’t know where to begin. In order to educate Buyers about the building process and dispel some of the myths, I sat down with John Seelye, owner of Big Sky Build, to learn about what it takes to build a dream home with his company.
Callie (CP): John, thanks for taking the time to share with our Buyers that the home building process can be fun and exciting, and doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it may seem. Let’s start with some details about you. Tell me a little about your company, Big Sky Build.
John (JS): I am originally an East Coaster, and I always loved to ski. After college, I moved to Colorado, but in the mid 90s, as soon as I heard they were building the tram at Big Sky, I knew I had to make the move. I moved here for the skiing, and nothing else. In 1997, a year after moving here, I started my company, Big Sky Build.
CP: Your offices are located in Big Sky Town Center. Do you do all of your building in the Big Sky Area?
JS: Almost all of the building we do is in Big Sky. And we do not only new home construction, but also any size remodel – from a bathroom update or addition to a complete overhaul of an existing home.
CP: For the Buyer that is looking for a home and hasn’t been able to find what they want, what can you tell them about where to start their custom building process?
JS: In order to make sure they end up being totally satisfied with their finished product, I recommend doing some research first with regards to the size of the home they want, the location, size of the lot, etc. When the client is working with a real estate broker, like you, they will help the Buyer narrow down where they might want to be based on their preferences. With different architectural guidelines and requirements in various subdivisions, that is a good place to start.
CP: Do you recommend they work with their broker to find a piece of land first, then find a builder, or do you think it’s better when they involve you in the process from the beginning?
JS: Once they have narrowed it down to a few lots they like, I do think it’s in their best interest to have the builder involved from the beginning. There are a lot of factors with the lot itself that can affect their overall budget, not just the price of the land. They need to take into consideration the site work, the slope of the land, whether or not public utilities are provided, landscaping needs, etc. When I’m involved early in the process, I can help with any due diligence – soil and geotech studies, lot line determinations, design guidelines, and make recommendations based on my experience in various locations around the area. There are many pieces of the final puzzle.
CP: Presumably, before you get too far along in the planning and budgeting process, these are all things that would need to be determined anyway before you can quote a price.
JS: Yes, those are all factors in pricing. And going through the pre-planning process with the client also lets us build a relationship and get to know each other. I can then give recommendations about things like an architect or an interior designer based on their “likes”. And having the architect involved early in the process, even before the lot is purchased, can also help with meeting a budget, no matter the size.
CP: Are all of the homes you build designed by an architect?
JS: Yes. At a minimum, I require a full set of builder plans, designed by a Montana-licensed architect. I’ve had people purchase plans online and want them to be modified or customized to their liking, but because of differences in structural requirements for this area, often times the end result is nothing like what they started with because so many adjustments have to be made, so the plans can even end up costing more. Some clients will fill in the “blanks” with the interior details, but most will use an interior designer on some level or another.
CP: Do you offer building packages, like a pre-designed “to be built” home, or are all of your projects custom?
JS: All of our projects are custom.
CP: You brought up a good point about structural differences. Many Big Sky clients come from other parts of the country, and even the world. Obviously, different regions have varying architectural styles, but you say that this region also requires different structural requirements in a home. Can you tell me some of the components you suggest every client should consider when building in Big Sky?
JS: Most of what we need differently in a well-designed home is related to seismic events, high winds and high snow load. We aren’t known for having large earthquakes, but even with small tremors, when building on the sides of a mountain like many homes are, we don’t want to take any chances. Another component is soil quality. We need to make sure the platform the home will sit upon is stable under any circumstance. Porous or clay-like soil can need reinforcing, which we sometimes need to do when we dig the foundation, and that adds to the cost. We always have a structural engineer inspect and certify the building site. Montana is a cold weather climate, so when a roof is designed, we want to make sure to minimize the risk of areas where an ice dam can occur. They need to be well designed and highly insulated. Lastly, how the house and home site interact with forest fire danger is a big consideration. We live in the west where fires can be prevalent, so many homes have Class A fire-rated roof systems (and some developments require it) to minimize a fire loss.
CP: What type and size homes do you build? Do you have a specialty?
JS: We have no specialties; it’s all based on what the client wants. We have done timber frames, log homes, contemporary and modern, large and small - you name it. We have a fully staffed office, employee-based job site supervisors and carpenters, plus highly skilled sub-contractors, all with a great depth of experience. My feeling is that a good general contractor will have a quiver of talent from which to choose, therefore being able to please any client.
CP: Let’s talk about timing. How long does it take you to give a client an estimate on building the home?
JS: Once a lot is identified and the plans are provided, it takes about 4-6 weeks to price out a house. The more info I have about the interior details, the more accurate the budget will be. If there are unknowns, I will include an allowance that the client can work within when making decisions.
CP: Once you have a signed building contract with a client, how long does the entire construction process take?
JS: The length of time will depend on the size of the home, but it varies from six to twenty months from the time we break ground.
CP: As we said earlier, many clients do not live in Big Sky. How easy or difficult is it for a client who doesn’t live here to keep tabs on their home construction as its progressing?
JS: It’s very easy with today’s technology. We regularly use e-mail, video conferencing and take regular photos of the home’s progress. Every Monday we send a builder report to the client. It includes a weather report, what work was completed the previous week, what contractors were on site, projected business for the upcoming week, and it includes progress photos. It helps them keep tabs on the progression, but it’s also fun and can be shared with parents, kids and friends. I will tailor the communication needs to the client. Some want to talk every week; some don’t want to be involved at all for months.
CP: What are some common myths about building a custom home that might make someone shy away from the process if they don’t know the truth?
JS: I’d say the most common myth is that the construction industry is shady and crooked. I’m sure in some areas it can be, but we have a highly sophisticated and experienced industry here in Big Sky. The client is the one who will ultimately be picking their team, so after talking with the real estate broker, and any friends or locals you know, go with your gut. The team is important, you have to trust them, and word of mouth and local reputation is going to tell you everything you need to know. Another myth is that building is stressful. If you let it, it can be stressful, but it should be fun and rewarding. If you take the time to pick the right team of people, including architect and designer, combine that with the right communication, it can be a great process and you’ll end up with the product you want. The last myth is that building is prohibitively expensive. It definitely doesn’t have to be. In fact, there are many places in the country where it is more expensive to build than here - Jackson Hole; Newport Beach; Greenwich, CT. We do have factors that affect the cost, like logistics, Mother Nature, and where many of our workers come from. However, we have been building here for 20 years so we know what to expect and it’s calculated into our costs.
CP: When a Buyer buys an existing home, there are protections in place to prevent uncovering latent physical defects within the home. What kind of warranty do your clients get when you build them a home?
JS: Montana Law requires a one year Builder’s warranty on any new home. However, we stand behind our work in all of our houses. We take care of our clients long after the house is complete because we treasure our long-term relationships. We recognize that having happy clients is a win-win for everyone. All homes require maintenance, so we want them to come to us to line up a painter, a roofer, etc. to take care of client. And most of the time they want do because they know they can trust our recommendations.
CP: After almost 20 years building in Big Sky, do you have favorite house that you have built?
JS: That is always a tough question, and I always determine that I don’t really have a favorite. Each new house I build I am always filled with excitement, I love seeing new designs. I truly appreciate all the houses we’ve built because each one is unique and is perfect for the owner. What is most important to us is that our clients are thrilled with the end product.