Moving to Whitefish

The Pucketts are moving to Whitefish, Montana.

(editor’s note – I don’t know why, but for some reason – even though the scansion doesn’t match – that phrase makes me think of “They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard!”. We now return you to the FCD post, which is already in progress).

westernmt

Now, if you are thinking (as I am) “Didn’t they just move to Bozeman, Montana?” I have to respond that that depends on your definition of “just”. We moved here on 15 July, 2015. And, given as much as we invested into this move and location – buying a house, season passes, gym memberships, doctors and dentists, church obligations and service positions, planting trees – we could increase the list, but you get the idea – it does seem a bit quick to talk about leaving.

But we’re old, and running out of time.

When we moved here, we were very excited about living here, and we did two things wrong – we didn’t do our due diligence, and we forgot that we were supposed to downsize. But we were okay with both of those mistakes; we were working things out on the areas that we hadn’t fully investigated (such as how long it took to get to the ski hill) and we accepted the larger mortgage as just the cost of doing business.

But then two things happened, almost simultaneously:

  • A new-construction house (everything in this neighborhood is new) slightly smaller than mine – and with a 2-car garage rather than 3, no loft, no two-story ceiliings, and no deck with a view of the Bridgers – went up for sale 100 yards away, for 50K more than I paid a year earlier.
  • Two of my friends and co-workers were let go at the SLC office.

From these two facts, three of things could be inferred:

  • Bozeman is in a real estate bubble
  • It’s probably a good time to sell my house, and
  • My job is less safe than I had hoped.

The first one is scary – I lived through the 2005 bubble, but just barely. The house that I bought in 2005 has not yet regained its value – Zillow shows it at $124K less than what I paid. I do not want to get caught in THAT again.

But if it is a bubble, then it’s also an opportunity – I can probably sell at a profit. And that certainly seems to be the case.

The second one is scarier. One of these gentlemen that was let go I had worked with before – his diligence and work ethic are such that I could never match them. The other was a young man just a couple of years out of school.

Obviously, the tolerance levels have dropped with my current employer. And I’ve felt like the dumbest guy in the room since I got there.

So when Ethel and I sat down with these things and looked at them, it was sobering. How would we get this house paid off in time to retire if my job was insecure?….and, if we couldn’t, what would happen if we tried to sell after the (presumed) bubble burst?

And then, suddenly, a third fact announced itself. It had been growing in the corner for a good while, but it had never spoken up – but suddenly it jumped out into the middle of the room and demanded that we look at it:

We did not want to wait until we were 65+ years old to retire.

As soon as we said it out loud, it was apparent that we’d already, both, made that decision at some level below consciousness, but we’d never brought it up and looked at it. As soon as we did, we were sure.

So we looked around and tried to figure out what to do about it. And one thing that was apparent, immediately, was that Bozeman would not be the place that we would be able to retire, debt-free, in four years. That might have been possible if we had, indeed, downsized when we moved here, but the market has absolutely gone craziest in that 1600-2000 square foot condo sector that would be our choice.

So our gaze went outward.

Before we moved to Bozeman, we had a list of towns that we wanted to check, but we’d never gotten around to them, because we’d never made it past Bozeman. So now it was time.

Bend, OR came off the list for cultural reasons. And Steamboat went off the list because they’ve had some of the same real estate boom that Bozeman has had.

That left us with Driggs, ID and Whitefish, MT. We also added Kellogg, ID, just east of Coeur D’Alene, because I had become quite enamored of it during our many trips to CdA this year.

We visited these towns, and did a LOT of research before, during and after each trip – we were not going to be able to tell ourselves, after moving again, that we hadn’t done our due diligence.

We visited Kellogg first, and it had the best bang-for-the-buck in terms of real estate dollars, but there were many things that Ethel didn’t like about it. ‘Nuff said.

Whitefish seemed to check all of the boxes with respect to skiing, meetings, church, tri training, and services, and we found some nice places. We also drove to the ski hill *more than once* to make sure that it was a short, and easy, trip 🙂 Whitefish was promising – but this time we decided to keep checking, to make sure that we’d picked the best town.

We visited Driggs, which is the base town for Grand Targhee and a short drive from Jackson. I loved Driggs – among other things, it had the best Mexican – but Ethel saw some things lacking due to the size of the town; it was quite small.

And, while doing this research, Ethel added the town of Granby, CO to the list, based on our criteria. I had to stay home and work at the time, but she flew there for a couple of days look-around. Promising from many perspectives, but the worst in terms of price per square foot. And hard to get a place with a garage, for some reason 🙂

So, after all the traveling and weighing pros and cons and prayer and thought – and more than a few arguments – we decided on Whitefish.

Now we’re three days out from the move, living out of boxes and saying goodbye to everything and everybody. And it’s occurred to me that I might want to remember, later, just what happened to cause us to leave Bozeman – which is, absolutely and completely, a GREAT town – so I figured I’d write all this down in a place where I couldn’t lose it 🙂

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3 comments
  1. Dave C said:

    All I can say is “What? Again?”

  2. I don’t understand, Dave. We’ve never moved to Whitefish before 🙂

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