Jennifer Shelley finds selling real estate in the Flathead Valley dream job because, according to her, “There’s no place like Montana.” An avid outdoorswoman, Jennifer takes advantage of all the things that the valley has to offer; stealing away to swim, hike, boat, snowshoe, hunt upland game birds and compete in sporting clay shooting. Jennifer says, “It’s a privilege to help my clients find their dream in Montana. I love sharing my passion for this place and my knowledge about the market.”
WHJ: How often do people who have never been to the Flathead Valley decide to buy in the Flathead?
SHELLEY: About 50 percent of my calls from new buyers are from those that have never been to the valley. I believe our tourism marketing from both local and state venues has improved visibility of our State to those that have never been here. Whitefish Resort’s high rankings in respected national publications,and new shoulder events for our area have helped as well. The many conversations I have with new buyers who have never been to the area start with the fact that they have always wondered and dreamed about this place, but that they know little about it. They may have seen an ad on TV, or Googled something about Montana, but they all have a dream about this place; you can hear the excitement in their voices about maybe making it possible someday—I love those conversations!
WHJ: How do you see your role as an agent in a mountain town?
SHELLEY: It is essential to educate and to give clients an understanding about the diversity of this valley because many of them are not familiar with the way the towns sit among the lakes, rivers, streams, and mountains creates many microclimates in our valley—all of these factor are important when choosing a location. One mile over the hill can make a huge difference depending on where you are in the valley. But mostly, I listen to what they want and help them find it. This is one of the first things I do with clients—just sit back and listen. Once I have a sense of what my clients want and who they are, then I get to work!
WHJ: What features in a home appeal today’s buyers? Are there some homes more in demand than others?
SHELLEY: There’s a very diverse buyer’s market. But overall, people are looking for a design that takes advantage of the beautiful area we live in, with an orientation of the main living space (kitchen, dining, great room) to maximize privacy and the views. Most buyers are interested in a master suite on the main level with large walk-in closets. We are seeing more requests for extra space for a caretaker or an elderly relative with handicap access. Some clients still want the classic log home with large windows and views, but are not so willing to compromise on the floor plan to get it. Many buyers are downsizing to smaller square footage—simplifying—which, of course, can mean different things to different people. Location is still important to buyers and water is still highly sought after.
KALISPELL LEGACY PROPERTY
A rare opportunity to own a 4th generation legacy property on 192 acres with 7,920 ft of Flathead River frontage, just minutes from Flathead Lake. The 3,000 sq ft 5BD, 3BA home offers 360 degree views including the Swan Mountain Range, along with a 1,200 sq ft shop. Part of the property is a popular wedding venue with beautiful unmatched backdrops. Additional buildable site and harvested farm ground, all in a Conservation Easement with outstanding wildlife & ecological features.
WHJ: Is there a demand for finished homes or are buyers remodeling and building custom homes?
SHELLEY: For my clients, it has depended on price point. There is limited inventory in certain price points depending on which area (Bigfork, Whitefish, Lakeside, Kalispell, Swan, etc.). There are quite a few land opportunities, and once they evaluate the cost to build—improvements on land, land cost, etc.—some clients are definitely deciding to build the home they want. Buyers are definitely more discriminating now and not so quick to buy just because it’s a Montana home. Buyers have to consider what is available for finished construction, or homes that need to be remodeled, or vacant lots. We do a lot of price analysis and comparison on all three of these options.
WHJ: What direction is the market moving as far as price? Is it straight across the board? What are the drivers?
SHELLEY: Pricing seems to be leveling out as it has been for the last few years, no big ups or downs. Drivers are supply and demand as always, and now, an emergence of employment opportunities to bring not just second home and retirement individuals to the area, but those in the job market and entrepreneurs that look to our valley for relocation; this is a great thing! The strength of other markets for the retirement population has helped our area for those that have been trying to sell in the last five years, as now they are able to buy their retirement home. Our Canadian market is a strength for us, but as the dollar goes up and down, it affects the timing of their investments. Foreclosures are down, which is great. And construction has been steady in some areas.
WHJ: What trends do you see taking shape?
SHELLEY: One of the most consistent trends, or should I say buyer visions, is the desire to simplify life, to move to a stunningly beautiful area with a strong small town atmosphere. Technology allows us to live and do business away from the hustle and bustle of the big urban areas, and settle in rural areas such as ours. It’s great to see this in younger couples as well; many seem to want the lifestyle we have here, and that is why I, as well as many of our wonderful residents who live here honestly believe we have the best lifestyle in the world, and that passion shows when we introduce clients to our area.
WHJ: When buyers are comparing various resort markets, what sells them on the Flathead Valley?
SHELLEY: The unmatched beauty of our valley—the stunning lakes and mountain backdrops, the proximity to public lands and recreational areas—is a big selling point. There is minimal drive time and traffic is nearly non-existent. We don’t have the crowds that other resort areas do and there is easy access to great dining, cultural events, and art galleries. With Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park just out our back door, and Whitefish Resort receiving much-deserved recognition, people understand it’s a great ski area. For anyone interested in hunting, this is a great area. Accessibility is also key. But the most important selling point is the way local residents live—their sense of adventure, their appreciation for the natural environment, and their commitment to community.