Whitefish records strong year for home construction

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New residential home and commercial development in the city last year continued on a strong trend.

While the total number of residential units declined compared with the year before, they were still higher than any other year in the last decade, according to the city of Whitefish Planning and Building Department’s annual report. Commercial construction followed a similar pattern with fewer new buildings than in 2016, but more than other years in the last decade.

City Planning Director Dave Taylor said the residential permits contributed over $33 million to the community and the five new commercial buildings permitted brought in a total of more than $11 million.

An estimated $51 million poured into the Whitefish economy last year through construction-related activity, Taylor noted.

There were 103 new dwelling units permitted in 2017, which is less than the 156 units permitted in 2016.

For commercial permits, the city recorded 41 in 2017, down from 57 in 2016.

“The total number of new residential construction units was down significantly from 2016, but was still higher than most other years in the last decade,” the report notes. “The number of single family and townhouse/duplex units was up somewhat, so the overall decrease is due to the reduced number of multi-family units. Commercial permit activity decreased slightly from 2016, but was still high relative to other years in the last decade.”

The city recorded a total of 79 permits for both single-family residential and townhouse/duplex units in 2017, compared with 65 of the same types of housing the year before. For multi-family unit permits, there were 24 in 2017 compared with a decades-high of 91 in 2016.

Taylor said current planning, which includes subdivisions, conditional use permits and other land use applications, continued to be busy in 2017. The city approved eight new subdivisions with 34 new lots preliminary platted.

“The number of subdivisions was higher than at any time in the previous decade, but the number of lots fewer since most were for single family rather than multi-family residences,” Taylor wrote.

Seven new subdivisions were approved in Whitefish in 2016 with 51 new lots receiving preliminary plat that year.

The Planning Department processed a total of 177 permits in 2017, the second highest number of permits in the last decade. The department saw increased permit activity for conditional use permits, zone changes, short-term rentals and lakeshore permits.

Zone change requests more than doubled compared to 2016, which is directly related to more than 141 new acres added to the city through annexations. There was just 26 acres annexed into the city in 2016.

Final plat applications increased with nine reviewed and a total of 105 lots final platted in 2017.

The Planning Department anticipates 2018 to be another busy year for subdivision activity with a number of larger subdivisions potentially submitting for final plat.

For home sales in 2016, Whitefish recorded another year of increase in the number of homes sold in the city limits and the 3.5-mile area surrounding the city, according to a report by Kelley Appraisal of Kalispell.

The total number of sales inside the city was 238 homes compared with 194 sold in 2016.

“The Whitefish city limit sales represented 12.6 percent of the overall Flathead residential market with 238 home sales,” noted Jim Kelley, who compiles the annual home sales report. “This is a 22.7 percent increase in the number of sale from what it was in 2016.”

For the area outside the city limits, there were 396 homes sales recorded in 2017 compared with 316 the year before.

The median price inside the city limits and the area just outside the city limits both increased. The median for both last year was $340,000. For 2016, the median inside the city was $325,000 and just slightly higher for the rural area at $326,250.

There were a total of 14 lakefront residential sales around Whitefish Lake compared to 12 in 2016. The median price for a lakefront home was $1.9 million.

Kalispell saw an increase in the number of home sales with 493 compared with 470 in 2016 in the city limits. The median home price increased to $230,000.

Columbia Falls, inside the city limits, dipped in the number of home sales to 88 from 98 in 2016. The median home price increased to $215,000.

In Flathead County, last year set a new record in the number of homes sold at 1,882 compared with 1,680 in 2016. The median home price was $275,000, which is a 7.8 percent increase from the 2016 median of $255,000.

“Overall, the entire year set records in both the number of sales and price nearly every month,” Kelley wrote. “The only months that had fewer sales than 2016 were February and April. All other months set new records.”

Kelley expects interest rates to be a key factor for sales in 2018.

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