2021 Yellowstone County Veterans Non-Profits General Real Estate

2021 Yellowstone County Veterans Non-Profits [VIDEO]

Every year, 41 Realty Group partners with local non-profits.  In 2021, our efforts will focus on non-profits serving veterans in Yellowstone County. 

This video details some of the work we will be doing, as well as introduces you to the non-profit we will be working most with – Veterans Navigation Network.

Intro: Montana currently has the highest veteran suicide rate in the nation.

30% of veterans have a significant disability rating through the VA.

7.5% of veterans live at or below the poverty level.

Montana has one of the highest per capita rates of veterans in the United States. Our rate runs about 10%, which means we have an incredibly patriotic state and for that  I ’m very grateful.

Nicole King: Hey there  I’m Nicole King, broker-owner of 41 Realty Group in Billings, Montana. Those are staggering statistics. Every year my brokerage partners with area non-profits to raise money and awareness for their causes.  In 2020 we focused on nonprofits working with women and children,  and in 2021 we’ll be working with non-profits serving veterans, so that hopefully those statistics will go down.

To prepare for this year’s work we met with about a dozen local nonprofits in October and November. During those meetings we asked where is the gap in services for veterans in Yellowstone County? And how can we either fill that gap or get a really good start at it?

Aside from funding their answers were consistently, 1) getting the word out about their programs and 2) connecting with those who need their services. So then the question became how can we help? One after another after another they told us about a unique and effective newer non-profit and said that if we could help spread the word about them and their services and then raise funds to help them stay in business, all the other veteran non-profits would benefit

I had the privilege of talking with Blake Fuhriman with the Veterans Navigation Network, or VNN for short, a few days ago. Check out our conversation to learn more about their incredible work.

Nicole: The first person that I wanted you to meet is Blake Fuhriman. He is the chairman of Veterans Navigation Network and they’re who we’re going to focus primarily on throughout 2021. Blake, tell us how you came up with the idea for Veterans Navigation, a little bit, about yourself, what (VNN is the initials for Veterans Navigation Network), what you guys do and how you also connect with all the other non-profits here in town.

Blake: Of course so yeah my name is Blake Fuhriman, I am an army veteran — served four years in the ranger regiment and just Veterans Navigation Network was completely born out of my transition from service into civilian life. It was very difficult for me and it is for a lot of veterans to go from this high stress, high-octane environment where you also have the support of all your brothers in arms or brothers and sisters in arms, and you go from that to the next day you’re out you can’t even get onto the military base in many cases, right?

So, you get into that realm and then you move home or move to wherever and you don’t have any of your battle buddies or people you served with in the military and it’s just a complete change of pace. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, which many many people don’t, then it can lead to a lot of challenges. So that’s what Veterans Navigation Network started out of — was my own challenge during that transition.

Nicole: Sure. How long ago did you transition out of the military into civilian life?

Blake: I got out of the military in 2013 and I think I’m still transitioning out of service, right? Even though I only served four years, I mean, it was such a huge part of my life and you know there’s still days that I struggle. Just like anybody would struggle, right? I miss friends, miss fallen comrades — all of that. But you know,  that is part of my life, so you never really transition away from that but you integrate into this new world that you live in.

Nicole: Absolutely. So the first couple of years that you were out because VNN has only been around for about two years? 

Blake: A year.

Nicole: A year, okay, so you were out in 2013 and now it’s 2021. Tell us about those few years — what were the things that you particularly struggled with? Did you just find that there were no services to meet your needs, or? Tell us about that.

Blake: Yeah so when I got out, I had just gotten divorced. I had three deployments to Afghanistan, one of those I lost a couple friends and throughout the three, several people that I knew had been killed in combat and seeing atrocities of war, you know? I just saw that and then I came home to my family, moved from Georgia where I was stationed, to Wyoming.

And my family, thankfully for me, I had a super supportive family and they were really awesome and tried to help out in any way they could but they just didn’t know what I had gone through. And so I turned to alcohol to numb the pain that I’d gotten from a parachuting injury and the emotional pain that I’d suffered from my time in service. Alcohol, gambling — everything, you know, that I shouldn’t have been turning to is what I was turning to.

So I didn’t have that support or that network and that’s what I relied on and it was pretty disastrous for me just as a person and as a human being to go down that road without support.  And not necessarily without support but without support that was targeted and knew exactly what I needed in those times, right?

Nicole: Definitely, and so your experience with not having the targeted support is what birthed, then, VNN, and you’re here in Billings now. So you went from Wyoming to Billings — tell us about that.

Blake: Yeah, so when I got back to Wyoming, you know, I struggled. I looked for other jobs and just couldn’t find anything that brought the camaraderie of the military back or filled the void that I felt in my life. And so I just applied to all kinds of jobs and struggled, struggled, struggled.

And finally I got in a position, a training position, where there was other veterans involved and they really guided me and mentored me and helped me turn my life around. That was in Alabama and then I moved back from Alabama to Montana with my current wife and just realized that that mentorship was so powerful and that I saw a ton of veterans in Billings, Montana that lacked that in their own lives.

And it just hit me like, why isn’t anybody doing this, right? And so, there’s so many great organizations in Montana and Billings, specifically that help veterans. But as a struggling veteran if I went to one and it didn’t work out perfect or something like that, right, I would have just, you know, I would have gotten discouraged. I would have maybe thought well that didn’t work out I’m gonna go drink or I’m gonna go, you know? 

For me, that was a challenge. So having somebody to walk that walk with me would have been immensely powerful and that’s that’s why I want to work to make VNN work in the Billings community and I think it will, it’s already starting to prove to work.

Nicole: Yeah it sounds like it! So what you guys do is you have mentor veterans who then you partner up with veterans who are either just brand new to the transition out or maybe have transitioned out years ago and are now needing to plug into the services that are available to them, like Adaptive Performance Center, Dog Tag Buddies, Horses Spirits Healing, there’s — it sounds like basically dozens of different  non-profits that they can plug into, plus then the services available to the VA.

And you help them do that with one person that they can talk to who then can help them.

Blake: Yeah, exactly. So there’s basically a constant, right? They may go to an organization for help and it may not be the right fit, right? And so what we want to be is that constant so even if this organization doesn’t work out or this option with the VA doesn’t work out or whatever it is, you have that constant that’s there by your side the whole time and just walking you through that and helping you problem solve.

You know, not necessarily holding your hand, but keeping you accountable and making sure that you’re getting what you need.

Nicole: It’s probably pretty similar to somebody having your back in the military, you’ve got your comrades that are right there that are going through that entire walk with you side by side, and this is essentially what you’re providing for them.

Blake: Exactly, that’s a great way of putting it and you know there’s organizations like Dog Tag Buddies and APC, and Horses Spirits Healing, and they’re all great and they do great things for veterans, but you know at any at any time they may not fit the whole bill.

So you know they all have their individual niches that they help the veterans fill and the gaps that they help them fill but at the end of the day, they don’t do everything, right? And neither do we at Veterans Navigation Network, but we’ll find out who does and that’s something that takes something off the plate of the veteran and helps them get what they need.

Nicole: And their friends and family. Like, your friends and family, when you first transitioned out, I bet they were sort of felt helpless saying I want to help so much but I don’t know how, I don’t know who to reach out to and you can step in and fill that for them. By helping both the caregivers the friends, the family members, and the veteran all at once to find exactly what that veteran needs, and I would imagine it also helps a bit with the isolation.

There’s somebody who’s checking back in with that veteran constantly. I mean one of the statistics we heard is that Montana has the highest suicide rate in the nation for veterans and I bet that constant checking in helps with a little bit of that isolation.

Blake: Yeah, yeah, that’s really what we want to see is just, you know, obviously everybody wants to see that number go down and that statistic disappear but, you know,  it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere right now and we would love to be a part of that disappearing.

So checking in on these veterans is something immensely important, right? In the military you had a team leader, a supervisor or somebody like that or even just your battle buddy — somebody who’s the same rank as you checking in on you,  just watching your back, having your six, whatever you want to call it.

Veterans Navigation Network may not be able to replicate that completely because, you know, you’re not going to have that same relationship you have with somebody that you cleared a room with in Afghanistan, but it’s somebody who knows what that was like and can provide something really close to that.  More than more than a spouse or more than a parent or friend who is a civilian could do, right? Because they just don’t understand that.

Nicole: Yeah, when you sit down with a veteran versus if I sit down with a veteran, they’re not going to tell me the same things. They’re not going to talk to me in the same way they’re not going to feel the same connection with me that they will with you or with any of the other mentors that you guys provide. 

You know, another statistic that we heard at the beginning of the video is that about 10% of Yellowstone County’s population are veterans and that’s actually a huge number. If you google Billings population or just Yellowstone County’s population,  161, 000 is what 2019’s population was estimated at. We’ll see what it comes out with the census but if you just take 160,000 that’s 16,000 people right here in Yellowstone County that have experienced some portion of the military and that’s a huge number.

Blake: It is, yeah.

Nicole: Really that’s just, everybody that we’re walking past in the street could be a veteran, right? Statistically, one in ten is going to be. So that’s a lot of people you can’t possibly serve all of them, not all of them necessarily need help.

Blake: Yeah a lot of them could be our mentors, right? Alot of them you know may not be mentors, may not be veterans who need help but they can help in some other way. Really, they’re the community that we live in. They’re business owners, they’re doctors, they’re nurses, they’re the different people in the community that you’d never know but together, you know, the veteran community in Billings — they’re the community of Billings, really.

Just being able to connect that community and, you know, just realize that there’s that family here is incredibly important.

Nicole: And it seems like, so one of the other things that we heard is that about seven and a half percent of veterans live at or below poverty and I would imagine there’s quite a bit of pride involved in asking for help, right? So if they’re going without food, going without necessities, going without housing — whatever it is that they’re needing, you’re a great place to reach out to and get this one person they can talk to and get the assistance they need.

Blake: Yes that’s exactly, with Covid, because we haven’t been able to do that face-to-face mentorship as much, that’s really what we’ve been doing, is a lot of resource guiding; guiding vets to resources that they need and then just being somebody they can call and talk to, you know, and, you know, just help guide them or help problem solve with different things it’s it’s been great to see that we can help even in these crazy, crazy times that we’re living in.

Nicole: I  bet even the smallest things are really making a big difference at this point too.

Blake: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Some examples of that are just whether it’s a family in the community that just wants to give something, right? Food, gas, you know, fill a veterans gas tank, something like that, has been incredibly powerful. One around the holidays like we are now but just with COVID and isolation, just veterans knowing that people in the community do care about them.

Nicole: Absolutely so one of the things that we’re setting up is working with coffee shops and restaurants and different vendors to both set up services directly for veterans but also for them to have information about VNN and about all the different non-profits here in town right there and available at their counters for people to pick up.

So maybe they don’t have to make that phone call but they can pick up a piece of paper and have that with them and connect with Blake later. Also several coffee shops in town are creating specials on their menus where you order that and the money that is generated from that special goes directly to VNN to help them to continue providing the services. 

That, I would imagine, all that community support helps those veterans feel like they belong, that they’re valued, and the community is there for them.

Blake: Oh, yeah definitely, definitely. You know, there’s a ton of support in the community and we love seeing it come together to support our veterans.

Nicole: We appreciate you, thank you for your service and thank you for starting VNN. I think 2021 is going to be amazing for VNN, for you, for everybody and we just so appreciate you.

Blake: Well, thank you, definitely and thank you for the work that you’ve done and your organization has done on this project.

Nicole: It’s been my pleasure for sure. 




Nicole: Isn’t Blake amazing? I am so excited to work with him this year over the next few weeks we’ll be rolling out various partnerships throughout Yellowstone County that will 1) raise awareness for VNN but they’ll also raise funds for them so they can keep serving veterans.

I’ve been reaching out to local business owners over the past couple of months and have been humbled by our community’s support of veterans. So many have generously agreed to have info cards and posters and donation boxes of other businesses. And some have even created specials that when you purchase them, they directly raise money for VNN. We’ve created a tab on our website https://41realtygroup.com/2021-non-profits/ that list all of the businesses around town who are supporting our efforts this year and what they’re doing.

Go there right now to learn where you can shop to support VNN. We’ll also have a direct link to VNN’s website so you can learn more about them next month. We will post a video introducing you to a few of the other area non-profits who also serve veterans and to whom VNN gets to refer veterans.

Make sure that you like and subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you don’t miss that video. Thank you to everyone who has served or is serving in the military. We can never express how much we appreciate you.

See you next time.

Conclusion (Updated To Include Totals From 2021)

Here are our summaries from 2021: 

We donated $50,570.61 over the course of the entire year.

– $33,935.11 went to Veterans Navigation Network, $9,500 to HER Campaign, $4,800 to Yellowstone Foundation Properties, and $2,335.50 to the Billings Community Foundation. 

– $221.77 was also raised through donation boxes at several coffee shops throughout Billings.

– $470 was donated by Harper & Madison

At least 10% of every single commission generated by 41 Realty Group is donated. The more we sell, the more we are able to give! We are SO incredibly thankful for everyone who chose to use 41 Realty Group to buy or sell real estate this year and for all our agents who worked so hard to close those transactions. These donations are possible because of our clients and our agents.

Home Appraisals 41 Realty Group General Real Estate

Everything You Need To Know About Home Appraisals

A home appraisal is a critical component of any transaction, whether you’re buying a property with a mortgage, refinancing your existing loan, or selling your house to someone other than an all-cash buyer.

If you’re a buyer, owner, or seller, you’ll want to understand how an appraisal works and how an appraiser decides what a property is worth. So let’s dive into everything you need to know about home appraisals.

Your Guide To Home Appraisals

When it comes to purchasing, selling, or refinancing a property, the prospect of having an appraisal done may not be on your mind. But perhaps it should be: An appraisal determines how much a home is worth for everyone involved in the process, including the buyer, seller, and lender.

The aim is to prevent the buyer and the lender from paying too much. Although a home appraisal isn’t the most exciting aspect of purchasing or selling a house, it is essential. Learn more about how property appraisals work below.

What Is a Home Appraisal?

An appraisal is an expert estimation of a property’s worth. Appraisals are often employed in buy-and-sell transactions and occasionally used in refinance situations. They are unbiased and aim to accurately assess a property value so that everyone involved in the transaction has the truth. 

An appraisal is used to verify whether the property’s contract price is fair given its condition, location, and features in a purchase-and-sale transaction. In addition, an appraisal protects the lender in a refinance situation by ensuring that they are not providing the borrower more money than the home is worth.

Lenders want to ensure that homeowners are not over-borrowing for a house as collateral for their mortgage. If the borrower defaults on their mortgage and enters foreclosure, the lender will sell the property to recover the money it gave.

The appraisal protects the bank against lending more than it might be able to recover in the worst-case scenario.

The Appraisal Process and How Values Are Determined

Because an appraisal typically protects the lender’s interests, the lender will generally request one. A good expert evaluation costs several hundred dollars and is paid for mainly by the borrower.

According to the Appraisal Institute, a professional real estate appraiser should be licensed or certified—as required in all 50 states—and be familiar with the local market. In addition, the appraiser must be impartial and have no direct or indirect interest in the deal under federal rules.

Comparable sales and market trends determine the appraisal value. In addition, the home’s features, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, floor plan functionality, and square footage, are critical criteria when determining the property’s worth.

The interior and exterior of the home must be thoroughly examined, and any factors that damage the property’s value, such as necessary repairs, must be noted.

Appraisers use the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report from Fannie Mae for single-family houses. The report requires the appraiser to document the property’s interior and exterior and its neighborhood and comparable sales. The appraiser then analyzes and concludes the property’s worth based on their inspections.

The report must include:

  • A map of your neighborhood showing the appraised property and comparable sales used
  • Exterior photographs of each comparable property used
  • An explanation of how the square footage was determined
  • A sketch of the exterior
  • Photographs of the front of the house, the back of the house, and the street
  • Any other pertinent information, including market sales data, public tax records, public land records, and anything else the appraiser used to determine the property’s fair market value.

How Can You Improve Your Home Appraisal?

It’s critical to obtain a precise house appraisal. However, for sellers or homeowners who wish to refinance their mortgage, it’s still ideal for achieving as high an appraised value as possible. The most significant influence on the value of a home is sales data in the immediate market area. If all the houses surrounding the home you’re interested in are increasing in sales price, then your property will also likely continue to increase in value with no changes.

Though home appraisals aren’t really within your control, there are a few things you can do that might ensure your property is appraised at a higher value.

It’s essential to have good curb appeal. Mow the lawn, weed the garden, and trim the hedges. Confirm that the home is in excellent condition. The appraiser should be able to detect your house’s potential. Your style may not matter much, but curb appeal and maintenance may influence its assessed value.

For sellers specifically, the most significant way you can impact the market value of your home is to make improvements. For example, fresh paint and new flooring can go a long way to provide the greatest return on investment.

Make a list of recent house enhancements. Make a note of any improvements or unique features you’ve added to your property and leave it for your appraiser. You should include things like if you installed new roofing or siding or replaced your heating system, as well as when the work was completed.

Focus on the crucial upgrades. Though pools and large yards can make a difference, updated kitchens and bathrooms definitely carry more weight when it comes to a home’s value. However, we should include a warning. Don’t get too attached to the repairs you’ve made. Even if you’ve spent thousands remodeling, it doesn’t automatically mean your house will increase its worth.

What Sellers Need to Know About Home Appraisals

As a seller, an incorrect appraisal might force you to decrease the price of your home to sell it. However, waiting for an all-cash buyer who doesn’t need an appraisal as a condition of closing the transaction will unlikely result in a greater sales price. No one wants to overpay for property.

Unfortunately, if your neighborhood has recently suffered from distressed sales, the appraisal value of your property will be reduced. However, you may be able to persuade the appraiser that your home is worth more if it’s in much better shape than foreclosures and short sales in your neighborhood.

What Refinancing Homeowners Need to Know

If you’re refinancing a standard mortgage and a low appraisal will likely prevent the refinancing from happening. Your loan must appraise at or above the amount you wish to refinance for it to be approved.

If you possess an FHA mortgage, you can refinance without an appraisal through the FHA Streamline program—a fantastic alternative for underwater homeowners. Ask your real estate agent if this might be the right option for you.

The Bottom Line

The home appraisal is simply another box to check off a closing checklist when everything goes well. However, when the appraisal value is lower than anticipated, the transaction might be delayed or even called off.

Whether you’re purchasing your first house or refinancing, a basic understanding of how the appraisal procedure works can only work in your favor. This is especially true if you’re buying your first property. Contact your local real estate agent if you need help with this process. The team at 41 Realty Group would love to help you with buying, selling, inspections, home appraisals, and more! When you need experience on your side, give us a call today.

Touring Billings, Montana - 41 Realty Group General Real Estate

Touring Billings, Montana Video Series (Videos 1-3)

Nicole King, broker, and owner of 41 Realty Group has been recording a Touring Billings series on her YouTube channel to showcase some of the best parts of Billings, Montana. So far she’s covered Pioneer Park, Rimrock Road, and Forest Park Subdivision. 

Watch the full videos of each place below or read the transcripts to learn more about each place.

Videos 1-3 of Touring Billings, Montana Video Series

What are your favorite neighborhoods in Billings? View our first three videos in the Touring Billings, Montana series, and then let us know which neighborhoods we should cover next!

Touring Billings #1 – Pioneer Park

Nicole: Hey there! I’m Nicole King, broker/owner of 41 Realty Group in Billings, Montana. A couple of weeks ago we introduced you to a new video series, where we explored various areas of Billings. 

Today, we’re in the area surrounding Pioneer Park. Pioneer Park is a 32-acre city park just north of Senior High School. It’s between 3rd and Virginia. Located within the park is a wading pool, playground, tennis courts, restrooms, horseshoe pits, mutli-use trails, barbecue areas, a folf course, and plenty of green space with mature trees which is perfect for winter sledding.

The Zimmerman Center also sits just inside the park just off of Virginia and Ave E. It is a great place to host events. With this park being centrally located and it providing so many activities and beautiful scenery, it’s no wonder that the neighborhoods surround it are some of the most requested by buyers.

The areas around the park have been formally and informally named The Avenues, North Elevations, The Tree Streets, and The Poets. Those names are mostly not a mystery in origin. The Poets are named after famous poets like Longfellow and Whittier. The Tree Streets have strong names like Elm and Maple. The Avenues include Avenues B – F. And lastly there’s the North Elevation, which is a several block radius slightly to the east of Pioneer Park that is on the national register of historic places. 

It’s easy to see why so many folks love these neighborhoods. The welcoming craftsman, bungalow, and tudor-style homes along well-manicured tree-lined streets harken back to what can seem like a much similar time in history.

There are creaky wood floors, stately fireplaces, cross-hatched windows, and built-in doors and cabinets that bring the famed “character” to these homes. Buying one of these homes means embracing the quirks and inconveniences of a by-gone era, plus oftentimes needing to do expensive updates, like replacing knob-and-tube wiring, getting rid of lead-based paint asbestos, and replacing windows and adding insulation to improve efficiency.

One truly must have the love and patients for the issues of an old home. Each of these areas has their own cost variations and frequency in which homes become available. In the past 5 years, between 4-7 houses have sold each year in The Poets, but in the year 2018, none sold. The average price-point of homes sold so far in 2020 is $343,000. However, many of the larger and more expensive homes haven’t been on the market in decades, but would easily approach several hundred thousand and even over a million dollars. 

In the past five years, about fifteen houses have sold each year in the tree streets. The average price of homes sold so far in 2020 was just under $285,000. The Avenues and the North Elevation overlap one another. Usually only about 10 to 15 home sell in this area each year, but 2020 has seen a spike in over 25 sold so far, with an average price of about $256,000.

No matter where you choose to live in Billings, you can’t go wrong. If you’re looking for turn-of-the-century charm amidst a canopy of trees, are comfortable keeping up with the demands of an older home, and are pre-approved for a loan in at least the mid-200s, the areas around Pioneer park might just be perfect for you.

Thank you for touring a bit of Billings with me today. If you have questions about these or any other parts of the Greater Billings area, feel free to call, text, or email me anytime. Until next time, make it a great day, y’all.

Touring Billings #2 – Rimrock Road

Nicole: Hey there! I’m Nicole King, broker/owner of 41 Realty Group in Billings, Montana. As you drive down Rimrock Road, heading west, you’ll see dozens of streets branching off near the Rims. These short, mostly dead-end streets feature an incredible array of architecture. No two homes are the same, and they range in age from the early 1900s to as recent as this year. 

There are a handful of vacant lots to be built on as well, but they’ll set you back about a little over $100,000 to purchase. As we continue our tour of Billings, let’s take a closer look at these less-traveled streets above Rimrock and find out what they offer. 

Many buyers ask to be in this area due to the towering trees, large yards, and easy access to most other areas of town. Rimrock Road itself connects to major roads like Airport, Virginia, 13th, Zimmerman, and Shiloh. From those, it’s just a few minutes to the Heights, downtown, King Avenue, Shiloh Crossing, and the interstate.

Aside from convenience, these sloped streets offer solitude that is often paired with incredible views of Yellowstone Valley and the nearby mountain ranges. The area is a comfortable mix of small and large homes, homes that could use some updating and homes that have already been fully renovated. 

There are pocket parks sprinkled throughout, some with play equipment while some are left natural. One of the best sledding hills in Billings, Rimpoint Park, can be found just above Rimrock, a few blocks west of Shiloh. Make sure you check it out this Winter!

Usually between 80 and 90 houses sell each year in this area. 2020 has already seen more than 75 sales, and the price point of those has been about $345,000. The better-known subdivisions of Gregory Hills, Wilshire Height, and Castlewood have large signs at their entrances. Watch for them the next time you’re driving down Rimrock and then maybe turn in and drive the quaint streets and fall in love with yet another great area of Billings.

Thank you for touring a bit more of the Billings area with me today. If you have questions about these or any other parts of the Greater Billings area, feel free to call, text, or email me anytime. Until next time, make it a great day.

Touring Billings #3 – Forest Park Subdivision

Nicole: Hey there! I’m Nicole King, broker/owner of 41 Realty Group in Billings, Montana. Do you drive by these walls all the time and wonder, “what is behind them?” You’d be right if you assumed they are stately homes, perfectly manicured lawns, and to-die-for master suites. You would also be right if you thought there would be friendly neighbors, meandering walking paths, and a labyrinth of streets that I quickly got lost on. Welcome to Forest Park! Let’s explore.

With the exception of this beautiful patio-home community located at the South entrance of the subdivision, most of the homes are single-family residences. The curbed streets of the subdivision keep the traffic moving slowly, as most people want to take their time admiring these beautiful homes.

Forest Park got its start in the late 60s. Many of the homes were built between then and the late 70s. A few were sprinkled in between the 80s and 90s, but there was a large push for construction between the early 2000s to about 2016. Most of the homes are very large with several bedrooms and bathrooms.

If you’re wanting to move into Forest Park, you’ll need to watch the market carefully, since only about 15 properties sell here each year. The average price point for the ten that sold in 2020 was about $421,000. Now, keep in mind that most of the homes that sell in this area are exceptionally well-maintained, but they can also be time-capsules for the era in which they were built. The average price point is high, and you might also need a healthy remodel budget for post-closing updates.

Thank you for touring another part of Billings with me today. If you have questions about Forest Park or any other part of the greater Billings area, feel free to call, text, or email me anytime. Until next time, make it a great day!

Seller's Market vs. Buyer's Market 41 Realty Group General Real Estate

What Does Sellers Market Vs. Buyers Market Really Mean?

Are you wondering when the best time to buy or sell a home is? Though it does seem like certain seasons are busier than others, the real estate market fluctuates due to buy and demand rather than by the time of year. That’s why if you’re considering buying or selling a home, it’s essential to pay attention to the housing market and know the difference between a seller’s market vs. a buyer’s market. 

Not sure what those terms mean? Don’t worry! This article is here to give you a crash course on what buyer’s market and seller’s market means and how they can affect you. That way, you have the upper hand when you’re ready to buy or sell or just want to stay on top of the real estate market.

The Difference Between A Sellers Market Vs. Buyers Market

If you’re wondering if your local area is experiencing a seller’s market vs. buyer’s market, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s crucial you understand what’s happening in your local housing market so that you can get the best price for your home.

Let’s start by defining a seller’s market.

What Is a Seller’s Market?

A seller’s market comes about when there are fewer homes for sale than buyers, giving sellers more negotiating power. When this happens, the median prices for homes increase significantly, putting buyers in difficult positions.

Read on for a few strategies that buyers can utilize when they find themselves trying to buy in a seller’s market.

Strategies for Buyers

You can do several things as a buyer to ensure you’re ready to go when the right house comes along. 

First, prepare for bidding wars. The market is competitive, and other buyers likely see the same things you see in a house. Talk to your real estate and decide a firm price limit at the start based on what you can afford and what the home is worth. Being the winning bidder means nothing if the home appraises too low for your financing to get approved.

Next, you should get pre-approved for a mortgage before you even start looking. Getting pre-approved shows sellers that you are a serious buyer who is financially capable of making good on your home offer.

Lastly, act quickly and make your offer simple. Homes won’t stay on the market long, so you want to make a move quickly. It’s also tempting to waive contingencies when trying to get the upper hand. Don’t do this and risk buying a home that has significant problems down the road. Instead, make offers simple by including the financing contingency, the inspection contingency, appraisal contingency, and a standard closing period of 30 to 45 days.

3 Strategies for Sellers

Though it seems silly to list a strategy for sellers in a seller’s market, there are still a few things you should do to get the best price for your home.

The first thing you should do is list your home at marketing value. It might be tempting to list it extremely high, but overpriced homes will likely turn buyers off, and mortgage companies will likely get denied when an appraisal can’t support the increased offer price.

Next, consult with your real estate agent so that you know how to choose the best offer. The offer that sounds the best and the offer that actually closes isn’t necessarily the same. The right buyer will have all their finances in order and are ready to go quickly, even if it’s not the highest offer.

It’s also a good idea to have your next home lined up, as it’s likely your home will sell within days. If you happen to get a cash offer, your house could close within a week or two. That doesn’t give you much time to find a new place to live, especially when inventory is already low.

What Is a Buyer’s Market?

A buyer’s market exists when more homes are for sale than potential buyers, giving buyers the upper hand over sellers. Let’s discuss strategies for buyers and seller’s in a buyer’s market. 

3 Strategies for Buyers

You can take advantage of your negotiating power to get a better deal in a buyer’s market. For example, you can offer less than the asking price, as a seller whose home has been on the market for a while might be willing to lower the price. 

You might also be able to ask for seller concessions, which means asking the seller to pay some or all of your closing costs. Other possibilities include asking sellers to be flexible with the closing date or asking them to include appliances in the price. 

Don’t be shy about asking for what you want – and that includes asking for repairs. The home inspection will let you know what needs to get fixed, and the sellers might be motivated to improve those for you.

3 Strategies for Sellers

In a buyer’s market, sellers shouldn’t let buyers walk all over them. So here are a few tips to help you handle a market that’s slightly working against you.

First, highlight your home’s competitive advantage. What does your home offer that other homes don’t have? Make sure your listing highlights those. Then, if you feel like your home doesn’t have some of those extra advantages, create them! Get the interior and exterior repainted, hire a handyman to finish all of those nagging projects, use a professional stager – anything you can to give your home a leg up.

Make room in your budget for buyer concessions. In a market where buyers will likely be asking for extras, plan for those in your listing price so that you still get a reasonable price without losing too much money.

Lastly, make sure you get a pre-inspection so that you can identify any potential issues before buyers do. This gives you a chance to fix the problems before you list or lower the price accordingly if you don’t want to fix them yourself.

A Final Word On Sellers Market Vs. Buyers Market

When you break it all down, it helps buyers and sellers know what’s going on in the market. As a buyer, you’ll want to purchase your home in a buyer’s market, as this indicates an influx of available homes, which means less competition. As a seller, you hope that you’ll be able to list during a seller’s market because it means there are fewer homes for sale, and your house will likely have several people interested.

Regardless of what’s happening in your area, the best thing you can do is hire a real estate agent to help you navigate the tricky waters that are real estate. Hiring a competent real estate agent can give you a leg up on the competition and ensure you get the best price for your home.

Get in touch with us here and let us help get your questions answered about the current market, and get some tips so that you get the most bang for your buck.

Harper & Madison 41 Realty Group General Real Estate

Best of Billings Video Series – A Closer Look…

One of our favorite places in Billings, Montana, is Harper & Madison. Nicole King, owner and broker of 41 Realty Group interviews the owner of Harper & Madison to learn a little bit more about the history of this incredible coffee shop and bakery. 

Read on for the full transcript of the video.

Harper & Madison – An Inside Look At The Restaurant We Love In Billings, MT

Nicole: Hey there I’m Nicole King I’m the broker-owner of 41 Realty Group in Billings, Montana and today we get to sit down with Joanie. Joanie owns Harper and Madison, you’ve probably driven by it plenty of times when you’ve headed either away from the hospitals toward Pioneer Park or the opposite direction. They’re on 10th Avenue North, you can’t miss them – they are the cutest little shop and when you come in you can see that this is just the most welcoming and wonderful space.

so Joanie thank you so much for sitting down with me today. Tell us how you came to be, how did you get to be in this location, how’d you name your restaurant – anything you think we should know.

Joanie: The story, okay, this is actually my third business and it’s my favorite by far. I started this business 10 years ago.

Nicole: Congratulations!

Joanie: Thanks, and originally it was going to be out on the west end on Zimmerman. I had actually signed a lease there, but it wasn’t feeling right so I was searching for a different location that felt right and I never drive down 10th avenue but for some reason, that day I was driving down 10th avenue and I saw a big for sale sign in the window of this building and I screeched to a halt. I really didn’t even close my door I ran from my car and looked in the window and I said that’s it. I knew that i wanted to have a place that was unique in Billings and not about volume and crazy busy. I wanted a place where I could build community and this seemed like exactly the right location for that and it has been.

Nicole: Yeah for sure. Great job. I think building community is exactly what you do.

Joanie: Thanks, thanks.

Nicole: And so then you set about naming it and figuring out what it looks like.

Joanie: Right originally I had planned on just opening a bakery and it accidentally turned itself into a restaurant within a few days, you know. I had five sandwiches on the menu just in case someone would like to come in from the hospital or the clinic and and grab lunch but uh like i said within three days it was clear that I had accidentally opened a restaurant so we went with that and it’s been that for the last 10 years, up until recently.

Nicole: Yeah.

Joanie: The name comes from my kids my daughter is Harper and my son is Madison and they have literally worked with me since they were toddlers my son used to call us “Team Cake.”

Nicole: Oh my gosh, that is the cutest. I love it.

Joanie: So it felt good and uh and it makes me just – I feel like I have them here with me even though they’re far away now.

Nicole: Sure, yeah. so originally when you opened you had really long hours, a huge menu, and then recently kind of revaluated as everything shut down, did some remodeling – tell me about that process.

Joanie: We did we’ve, we’ve gone through a couple of transitions. This last time was definitely COVID-related when we had to restrict our seating, it was no longer feasible to support a staff of 12, even doing takeout. And besides, that isn’t what we’re here for. We’re not here to become a fast-food restaurant.

It really is a place for people to come and sit and be loved through food. So I made the decision to downsize. The sad part was letting some of my staff go because they were all wonderful. We went from a staff of 12 to a staff of five and decided to become a patisserie. So we sell European style desserts and a few breakfast items but we no longer do food to order, so it’s not that fast-paced busy crazy restaurant.

It’s more like the original vision that I had for it which is sweet so I guess if anything good came out of COVID it led me to where it is now.

Nicole: Oh that’s beautiful beautiful story and your food is beautiful.

Joanie: Thanks.

Nicole: What’s in those cabinets and what comes out on the plates is just gorgeous. You can tell so much love has gone into it so much thought about the ingredients and the presentation, everything.

I saw a picture of a sandwich from your brother the other day.

Joanie: Yes.

Nicole: It’s got this great bow on it and everything oh my gosh, it’s wonderful.

Joanie: We have a motto here and that is yeah, it all matters.

Nicole: Yeah, it feels like it for sure. So what are your hours?

Joanie: We’re open Tuesday through Saturday from seven to one.

Nicole: Okay.

Joanie: We do have seating and so you can come in and enjoy one of our breakfast items or a pastry or a dessert, a great cup of coffee, and just relax and and be loved on.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah, wow that is amazing. The another thing that you’re doing is that we’ve partnered with you for the benefit of veterans. So your family has a long history of military service, thank you to your entire family for everything. Both to those who have served to sacrifice but then also all the sacrifice of, you know, family members.

Joanie: Yeah, yeah, I have many men in my family who have served in the military and you know they have shared with me what that was like. It’s a sacrifice that I can’t imagine making so that when you approached me about partnering, I was more than happy to say yes to that.

Nicole: Oh well, we really appreciate it so anybody can come down here, order a cup of coffee, and five cents for every cup sold this year is going to go directly to the help of veterans.

Joanie: So we need to sell a lot of coffee.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah, come down get some coffee, enjoy everything else that’s on their menu. Be loved on through food as Joanie says. Come down to harper madison and experience it for yourself.

Joanie: Thanks for having me!

Nicole: Thanks for having me!

Real Estate Investing Tips 41 Realty Group General Real Estate

Real Estate Investing Tips For Beginners

Real estate investing has proven to be one of the main ways to build wealth for a long time. Real estate is never a bad investment, as it can be a viable way to build monthly cash flow, help you retire more easily, and help you reach your financial goals. 

However, successfully investing in real estate can be difficult in today’s competitive market. Deals are becoming more and more complex, and even one mistake can cost investors a lot of money. So save yourself a lot of time, frustration, and money by reading some of our real estate investing tips (and mistakes to avoid) and getting in touch with one of our agents today! 

The Best Real Estate Investing Tips For Those Just Getting Started

In this article, we’ll give you a basic overview of things to consider if you want to start investing in real estate. Then, hopefully, you’ll discover some actionable real estate investing tips to help you know where to look, the types of real estate to buy, and more! 

Define Your Real Estate Investment Goals

The first real estate investing tip we have for you is to clarify your individual investment goals. When it comes to making investment decisions, you’ll want to determine a clear strategy to reach those goals. Know where you want to go and how you plan to get there – before you spend all of your hard-earned savings on real estate.

There are so many factors and variables in real estate investing, so it’s essential to do some market research and talk to experts to help you formulate a personal real estate investment strategy. For example, what type of real estate are you planning on investing in? Residential, commercial, land, or particular use? 

Plus, there are several strategies you might consider – core, value-add, and opportunistic. While one person might thrive on opportunistic fix-and-flip properties, others find that core buy-and-hold longer-term investments suit them better. 

First-time investors should do some research, talk to agents in their market, and pick a strategy they think will work best for them and their personal goals. Stick to your goals and fine-tune your investment strategy along the way.

Order Inspections and Appraisals Before Buying

One of the most important real estate investing tips we give first-time investors is to always always always get an inspection before buying. Home inspections will show you all the “red flags” that might be a part of the property. These issues are good to know early so that you can plan for repairs and renovations and adjust your budget accordingly. In addition, inspections will show you the difference between a sound investment and a high-risk investment. 

Additionally, property appraisals are beneficial because they give you an analysis of the past, current, and predicted future value of the investment property. Don’t take a chance on guessing what the property is worth; get a professional opinion! Appraisers will also give you a reasonable estimate of what you can likely charge in monthly rent once you’ve fixed up the property. 

Join a local networking group

There are thousands of real estate investing groups across the country. Consider joining a couple and participating in local groups too! Joining groups will help you meet people to help you and introduce you to new topics and processes you might not have been exposed to before. 

Joining these groups can provide opportunities for education, mentorship, new deals, and so much more. Plus, many of these groups have local businesses you can support, and who doesn’t want to give back to the community?

Don’t Go Overboard With Renovations

Especially with fix and flip properties, don’t go crazy with renovations. You don’t have to blow your whole budget making your investment property look like it’s out of a home improvement magazine, especially when it comes to accents and fixtures. 

You want it to look modern and clean, but you don’t have to go overboard. If you’re selling, the buyers will want to put their own flair on the home, and renters won’t want to pay more monthly just because you went a little overboard with the renovation budget. 

Pair Up With Experts

We’ve mentioned it before, but investing in real estate has a lot of moving pieces. So it’s critical that when you first start out, you partner up with experts in each area of the process. Having people who have done what you’re trying to do will help you minimize mistakes. 

One thing you should do is align yourself with a real estate agent you trust, as they have access to tools and resources that could be beneficial to you. Plus, many real estate agents are investors themselves, and they can give you more tips and help you avoid mistakes. Don’t reinvent the wheel when others have already paved the way with proven processes that work.

Pros of Real Estate Investing

Now that you’ve got a few real estate investing tips to consider let’s discuss some of the appeal of real estate. First, it’s much less risky than investing in the stock market. Though you might not have the same earning potential, you can pretty much count on making a return when it comes to real estate. 

One main pro of investing in real estate is the steady cash flow. When you have enough rental properties and trustworthy tenants, this becomes a stable revenue stream for your business. Owning real estate also comes with tax breaks – you can deduct all sorts of expenses from your taxes. These include mortgage interest, depreciation, property tax, and more. 

Lastly, long-term returns are often properties, because over time, most properties increase in value.

Cons of Real Estate Investing

As with every potential investment, there are some risks to consider. For example, potential returns aren’t as high as the stock market, and the time it takes for you to see that return could be a lot longer. Also, unlike stocks, you can’t turn a property into cash quickly, as they aren’t liquid investments. 

Additionally, real estate investing can be pretty cash-heavy. Especially if you’re looking to create a steady stream of income, you’ll likely need cash on hand to get started. Whether’s you’ve saved the money or acquired a loan, you’ll need to be able to pay for building improvements, maintenance, and more. 

Managing tenants and taking care of maintenance can be a challenge too. Whether you hire a property manager or try to manage it yourself, there can be many unexpected problems that come up. Though it can be really rewarding, it’s important to consider that with rentals come overdue rent, roof leaks, power outages, finding qualified tenants, and more.


Real estate investing is a fantastic opportunity to explore new financial avenues and help you plan for retirement or simply create a new form of income. We hope that a couple of the above real estate investing tips help you feel better about getting started. If you want to learn more about investing in real estate, set up a strategy meeting with us at 41 Realty Group. We’ll discuss your concerns, answer your questions, and help you find the right property for your first investment. Give us a call to get started at (406) 969-4141.

Cost To Hire A Real Estate Agent 41 Realty Group General Real Estate

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Real…

Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, real estate is usually the most significant financial decision of your life, and one mistake could cost you tens of thousands of dollars and a lot of headaches. There’s no wonder why people choose to trust real estate agents instead of trying to handle all the ins and outs themselves. But what is the actual cost to hire a real estate agent? Is it worth it? Maybe you’re thinking that you could pocket a ton of cash by not hiring a licensed professional.

We get it! Everyone is looking for ways to save money. However, we think you might be disappointed at how little you will actually save if you skip on using an experienced pro to help you navigate the deal. Let’s discuss all the value a good real estate agent provides, and then you can decide for yourself whether they are worth it or not.

Everything You Need To Know About The Cost To Hire A Real Estate Agent

Here’s a list of everything you need to know about the cost of hiring a real estate agent and all the benefits that come with using one (especially on your first real estate transaction).

How Much Does a Real Estate Agent Cost?

The standard commission for a real estate transaction is typically 6% of the home’s sale price. The commission is usually split between the seller’s agent and buyer’s agent, a 3% cut for each of them. For example, if you’re buying or selling a $250,000 house, the agents would receive a total of $15,000 ($7,500 each). We get that it seems like a lot, so you want to make sure that you’re getting what you pay for. 

Keep reading as we break down that 6% and what that commission covers for your transaction.

What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

A real estate commission covers all the work that goes into buying and selling property. There is a lot that goings into buying and selling a house. A seller’s agent will help you stage your home to reach the right buyers, and most importantly, price it right. They take the time to get to know the area and compare prices so that it’s most appealing to buyers and will still bring you a profit. They’ll also make sure your home is seen by a ton of buyers, using a multiple listing service (MLS), social media, and ads. They have tools and tactics to get your home sold quickly and for top dollar. 

On the other side, a buyer’s agent studies home listings that meet your needs and are within your budget. They will arrange for a home inspection, negotiate for any necessary repairs or contract adjustments, and make sure you’re getting a fair deal. Buyer’s agents cover all of the ins and outs that go into finding you your dream home that you can afford. 

Both seller’s agents and buyer’s agents can give you confidence knowing you have a real estate professional on your side. Plus, both agents share many duties:

  • Meet with you in person or answer your phone calls whenever you have questions
  • Give you access to an MLS to offer more options to buyers and more visibility for sellers
  • Educate you on current market conditions
  • Refer you to other professionals in the industry (inspectors, attorneys, mortgage lenders, photographers, and more!)
  • Schedule showings 
  • Negotiate the best price and help you through mountains of paperwork
  • Represent you and act in your best interest throughout the entire process, no matter how long it takes

A good agent tackles all of these tasks day in and day out. Their experience handling tough contracts and helping you avoid mistakes is well worth the cost.

We thought we should also mention that although commission and the closing costs are paid when a home sells, there are few other costs to consider. Home appraisal and home inspections are used to make sure that the house is worth the price and helps bring to light any problems in the home. Talk to your agent to get an estimate of how much each of those necessary services costs, so you have a better idea of what to expect.

Is Hiring an Agent Worth the Cost?

You know the cost, and the ins and outs of what goes on in the daily life of a real estate professional, now let’s answer the question you’re really asking – are real estate agents worth the cost? As we explained above, sellers typically cover the commission for both agents, so buyers have nothing to lose. Sellers, if you think you’re getting the short end of the stick and are considering going the “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO) route, we want to lay out some stats.

FSBOs accounted for 8% of home sales in 2018. The typical FSBO home sold for $217,900 compared to $295,000 for agent-assisted home sales. That’s a huge difference! Even if 6% of that goes toward agent commissions, that’s still a chunk in your pocket that you would lost out on if you tried to sell yourself. 

Make Sure You Find A Agent Who Knows Your Area

We hope this list has proved that a good agent is worth the cost of commission. The best piece of advice we can give you is to find an agent with plenty of experience. Your buddy who barely passed his exam might not be the best choice when it’s your first home. Look for a pro who has a long history of success! 

The team of experts at 41 Realty Group would love to be your go-to person when it comes to real estate. Buying, selling, investing – we have an agent in every area who would to help answer your questions, find you the perfect home, the perfect buyers, and more. Reach out to our team today and see if we can help you with all of your real estate needs.

41 Realty Group Agent Vs. Broker General Real Estate

What’s The Difference Between Agent Vs. Broker?

Both real estate agents and brokers are licensed to help you with real estate, but is there a difference between agent vs. broker? In some states, they are interchangeable as a real estate broker is at the same level as a licensed real estate agent. In others, like here in Montana, brokers must have at least two years of experience and then pass a broker’s exam.

Let’s talk about some of the differences between agents and brokers.

Understanding the Differences: Real Estate Agent vs. Broker

Though both agents and brokers can help you with your real estate transactions, we thought we should highlight some fundamental differences in responsibilities.

Real Estate Agents

A real estate agent is a person who has taken and passed all required real estate classes, plus they have also passed the real estate licensing exam in the state they want to work in. For those just getting started in real estate, this is the most encompassing of the titles. You might also hear agents called real estate “associates.”

An agent can represent both buyers and sellers with their real estate transactions. Buyer’s agents will collect a wishlist from their clients and try to find a home that matches their wants and needs. On the other hand, a seller’s agent will list a home on the market for their client and try to solicit buyers.


When it comes to agent vs. broker, an agent is responsible for carrying offers and counteroffers between buyers and sellers, plus answer any questions that come up along the way. Agents work with other agents, and they also guide their clients through all of the necessary paperwork. They will ensure that their clients are aware of any and all requirements they need to complete the sale, including home inspections, closing dates, and more.

How Agents Are Paid

Real estate agents work for brokers or agencies and are typically paid on a commission, which means they receive a percentage of each property’s sale price. The higher the sale price, the higher the commission.

Responsibilities of Real Estate Brokers

When it comes to agent vs. broker, a real estate broker has continued their education past the standard entry-level. They’ve successfully passed the state broker exam and can now work independently or even employ agents underneath them. Some agents who have passed the broker exam still choose to work under a brokerage, and they are typically called real estate associate brokers. Associate brokers might share in the brokerage profits and have the potential to earn more than a typical agent commission.


Like buyers’ agents, brokers who work with buyers help them find properties that match their criteria, conduct negotiations, prepare offers, and handle any other issues that come up before the closing date.

Sellers’ brokers determine market values of each client’s properties, help list and show properties, schedule open houses, communicate with sellers about any offers, and assist in negotiations.

How Brokers Are Paid

Brokers receive a commission once the transaction has been completed, and the commission amount will be listed in the contract between the broker and the buyer or seller. Typically the listing agreement will outline how much of the percentage of the property of the sale will go to the broker. 

Bonus: Realtors

A realtor is another real estate professional, but the distinction is that they are a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). To become a member, agents must agree to abide by the association’s standards and uphold its strict code of ethics. The word “realtor” is commonly confused or mistaken for “real estate agent.” However, it can be open to various professionals in this industry, including residential and commercial brokers, appraisers, property managers, and RE salespeople.

Though most real estate communities do it naturally, realtors are bound by a code of ethics where they promise to be transparent and always uphold their client’s best interests in all transactions. Usually, those in this association are experts in their field.

Key Takeaways For Agent Vs. Broker

If you skipped everything above, here’s the quick breakdown:

  • Real estate agents are licensed to facilitate real estate transactions for both buyers and sellers, work underneath brokers, and are paid commissions for each sale.
  • Brokers typically have more experience, are more qualified, and can work independently or have other agents work for them.
  • Realtors are a part of a specific trade organization called the National Association of Realtors and can hold any position in the industry.

The significant distinction among the three is that an agent must work under a licensed broker, while a broker can work independently. So when you work with an agent at 41 Realty Group, you’re working with an agent employed by the brokerage. Essentially, you’re hiring the brokerage to help you through the process, and your specific agent is acting as the agency’s representative.

What You Need To Know About Licensing

It’s important to note that every real estate professional is subject to specific regulations. Both agents and brokers in the United States are licensed by the state, not by the federal government. Each state has its own laws for agents vs. brokers and what types of relationships can exist between them and their clients, plus the specific qualifications that real estate professions should meet.

Finding the right real estate agent that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. Every real estate agent is legally bound to act in your best interests, and when you work with a team like ours, you’re getting an entire group of professionals who know precisely how to help you. Ready to chat with an agent OR a broker at 41 Realty Group? We would love to help you with all of your real estate questions and needs! Get in touch with us here.

Project Re:Code 41 Realty Group General Real Estate

Project Re:Code in Billings, MT – A Rezoning Story

The City of Billings Planning Department has been working on updating the zoning code, which has been a massive undertaking. This video explains the entire process and why this update is happening as Nicole King, owner and broker of 41 Realty Group interviews Nicole Cromwell, Zoning Coordinator/Code Enforcement Supervisor.

Watch the video or scroll down for the full transcript of the interview. 

What Do You Know About Project Re:Code in Billings, MT?

Project Re:Code is the first major overhaul of city and county zoning regulations in 45 years. Nicole King gets the full overview of why Yellowstone County needed this update and how the process works in this informative interview with Nicole Cromwell. 

Nicole K: Hey there! I’m Nicole King, broker/owner of 41 Realty Group. I am here at the City Planning Department, correct?

Nicole C: You are.

Nicole K: Okay, good almost got that wrong, with Nicole Cromwell and the reason I wanted to sit down with her today is that the city of Billings has been going through for the last few years the major process of evaluating current zoning and looking at how that can be changed and updated to be more effective for the people that live here and more beneficial to all the ways in which that we’re trying to grow and improve our community. And I wanted to talk with Nicole because she has been heading out that entire endeavor and just really excited to hear what she has to say, so… 

Nicole C: Well thank you, Nicole.

Nicole K: Thank you! 

Nicole C: Yeah, and thanks for making this opportunity to reach some of your constituents and some of your customers and clients. It is really important. About four years ago the City Council adopted a new growth policy. And the growth policy is intended to take the community forward like 5, 10, 20 years into the future. And it’s very broad and general statements about where we want to be at those points in time, and how we implement that is through different codes the city council adopts. So we have a code about buildings, we have a code about how streets are developed and laid out, and what types of sidewalks need to be put in, and where water and sewer is going to go. And the major portion of it is also zoning. So zoning takes those goals and policies and tries to implement them. So in 2016, when they adopted this new growth policy we looked at our zoning code and said, you know this 1972 zoning code is really not doing it anymore. Not for these growth policies. 

Nicole K: The world was very different in 1972. 

Nicole C: It was, yeah. People who know what a cassette tape and a pencil is and why those two things go together were alive back then and those don’t exist anymore. They’re not useful anymore, and we have many tools like that in our existing code that don’t get us where we want to be. Where we are now and where we are planning to be in five or 10 or 20 years. So the Planning Board, with the approval of the Council and the County Commissioners, said let’s do this – let’s take on this big project and update our zoning project. 

Nicole K: Right. 

Nicole C: So the first thing they did is they decided that it had to be done with a lot of citizen and constituent input. It couldn’t be done by just hiring a consultant, having them come in read our existing code, read our growth policy and write us a new code. That doesn’t really work for our community. 

So we established a steering committee. It was 18 people from real estate, from neighborhood task force, from people who sat on the zoning commission, city council, county commissioners,  all got together and talked about how we were going to line out this project and get it done. And we met starting in august of 2017 and we met monthly for quite probably about six months. And they established what we called our guiding principles for Project Re:Code, which is what we called it.

Nicole K: Okay.

Nicole C: And Project Re:Code is this effort to build a new zoning code for Billings and Yellowstone County as well. So those guiding principles basically gave us our marching orders as staff and consultants were brought on board to help us with the hard work of writing and rewriting and illustrating and graphing all of the new zoning. Along with our – we established four working groups who focused on specific parts of the code.

Nicole K: So what were a couple of examples of the guiding principles and then maybe what were those work groups? 

Nicole C: Okay, so the guiding principles of, you know, our number one guiding principle was to make the code clear. 

Nicole K: Okay, so someone like me could just open it and understand it. 

Nicole C: Right. Not using fancy terminology – 

Nicole K: Could you make the whole government like that? 

Nicole C: Well, you know, there are some states that adopted what they call ‘plain english’ requirements for laws and statutes. So we kind of adopted that into our zoning. You obviously have to use some technical terms that are specific to real estate. So clarity was important but also consistency was important. So every time we looked at a part of the code to change it, we said okay, what other parts of the city code is this going to have to fit with and is that going to contradict those parts of the code. So we kept our eyes on that as well as we went through. We wanted to make sure that the new code was more predictable than the existing code because some zoning districts that we have now – you could have everything from a shop warehouse to a multi-family apartment building and if it’s vacant ground, you just don’t know until the shovels go in the ground and that person has decided whether it’s a shop building a warehouse or a three-story apartment building. Those are the kinds of districts that make people very afraid. I mean, there’s no other way to determine, it’s scary.

Nicole K: /yeah anytime that I go to sell a piece of property like a house or anything that’s already built, if there’s vacant anything nearby, a lot or just open ground of some kind, the very first question I get is “do you know what’s going there?” And then I’ll do all sorts of work to figure it out, but that’s often because like you were saying, the zoning that it might fall under is just open to anything and everything. So it’s hard to know until you get a hold of the right person who’s in the know about what might be built there.

Nicole C: Right, so we also knew we had voids in the code. So that was another guiding principle; we needed to fill in parts of the code that we had never had to deal with before. Accessory dwelling units. Short-term rentals. 

Nicole K: Absolutely for sure. All kinds of craft alcohol that’s now allowed by the state of Montana. The only one we even talk about in our code is micro breweries, but that is not a universal term. We have micro distilleries now, we have cideries, we have wineries – all have different types of licenses from the state but we only talk about one of those.

Nicole K: Right, so the licensure has kept up with whatever the current industries are but our zoning has not?

Nicole C: Right.

Nicole K: Okay.

Nicole C: So our working groups were because we have, well we had a combined code with the county. We separated those codes so we had one working group that worked just on county issues and one working group that just worked on urban issues. Because we’re going to have separate codes

Nicole K: Yeah which is really helpful, it’s great. 

Nicole C: It is, because the issues in the county, although we share edges, they’re very different issues. So we wanted to make sure that those groups worked just on those issues and then came together when there was a common, common thing that they had to work on. So that led to two more working groups; one for landscaping codes and one for signage codes. And they worked on both the city and the county versions of both of those codes. So it was quite lively, those groups. We met at least once a month, sometimes more depending on what we were working on. We started in January of ‘18 and most of the groups finished up in January of 2020.

Nicole K: Right before COVID, so that’s good. 

Nicole C: Right before COVID. Then taking all of that work and then having the consultant and the staff working to refine and polish and get those public review drafts out took most of the spring, until March/April, and then those code sections were published online on our project-recode.com website.

Nicole K: Make sure to put a link down in the notes to this video so you guys can click right on it and go to it. 

Nicole C: So all of the presentations that we’ve done to many task force or interest groups are posted on that webpage, on education and outreach. If you want to look at your existing zoning versus your new zoning district there’s a side-by-side comparison map on there. There’s also the code outline page, which has both the city and the county as different links on there, so you don’t get confused. You don’t have to read both of them at the same time. So it’s we were hoping to lose some weight in the code pages. 

Nicole K: What, 428 pages in the proposed… something like that? 

Nicole C: Right it depends on what font…

Nicole K: Yeah I guess that’s true. How many pages were in the old one, do you know? 

Nicole C: 450. 

Nicole K: So quite a bit though, I mean, 25 pages of code is a lot to lose though, so that’s excellent. 

Nicole C: So actually when it finally gets into the overall city code it’ll probably shrink, because we use large font we have pictures and graphics, and you know.

Nicole K:  There are a lot of graphics which is very helpful in the proposed code to really see when it says the description in writing. What I picture might be different than what somebody else pictures so I really do appreciate all of the graphs that you guys put in there. It makes it a lot easier to understand for sure.

Nicole C: Right. So I guess one of the, I guess big changes, is that right now we have about 12 residential zones. When we looked at our growth policy it was written around the idea that there are neighborhoods. They’re not just residential subdivisions. There are pieces and parts that go together in a neighborhood and so we wrote our new code as neighborhood zones, not just residential zones. Now those neighborhood zones allow different types of dwellings. So we have one zone district that’s just single family and then we have two zones that allow one or two family. And then we have three levels of multi-family zoning depending on where you’re intending to use them or where they actually are in the community already. So we found these small apartment homes, houses, kind of scattered throughout all of Billings. There’s the little four unit sometimes just three unit buildings in our neighborhoods already. So we built a code for that. 

Nicole K: So the things that already have – so let’s say it looks from the outside like a single family but maybe it has been divided into two or three units – you looked at that and gave it a different zoning than its neighbors who still truly are single family. 

Nicole C: Yes.

Nicole K: Perfect, okay. 

Nicole C: Right and we built that code, that district, so that it could be used the same way in the future. And it wouldn’t be you know it wouldn’t be like our current codes which you know if you have a multi-family zone, you could have next door to you, you could have a four plex, an eight plex, twelve plex, ten plex. It’s really – it’s so unpredictable. And it’s scary to have a multi-family near you because it’s so wide open. So we made it more predictable and we kind of made these smaller increments of multi family. From the small four unit buildings, that’s all,  or you could go a little larger up to eight. And then beyond that there’s the five plus so it’s more predictable. If you’re next to this mixed residential three zone you know it’s at least going to be a five unit building and sometimes much larger.

Nicole K: So you’ll tell right from looking the name of it instead of – so right now when I look at multi-family vacant lots for investors, they then have to call you guys and say, “what can I build on this” and then you have to look up the size of the lot and do all sorts of measuring and then go, “you can build a fourplex on that.” So now it’ll just be that’s the zone and that’s what you can build.

Nicole C: Right.

Nicole K: Great, love it. 

Nicole C: One to four, to eight, and five or more.

Nicole K: Well that makes my job much easier.

Nicole C: When I was talking to our director this week about this new tool that we’re planning to put in the code called “The Planned Neighborhood Development Tool”. This is meant to make the edges of the city and the county more seamless. In other words if you want to come into the city and annex property and build a new neighborhood, here’s some like a kit of parts you have to use in order to do that. Because we’ve built these new neighborhood zones, we’re using those as part of the kit. Each one of those zone districts was based on an epic or an era of when billings was built. So we have what we call first neighborhoods or N1, so those in the standards and site requirements for that N1 district are intended to make anything new that’s built in those existing areas, fit in better. 

But it also has some very good things to recommend for us now. So it can help you build cottage courts, you know, where people can live around a central courtyard that they share that open space together. It’s a very popular form for elders, you know, or that they don’t want to own their own lot, their own big backyard to take care of, but they still want to have some kind of semi-private open space for when the grandkids come and visit or whatever. So that’s one of those things that you can do in that N1 district is you can build some homes around a courtyard. 

So that’s an era thing, and so when we did the next era, which is mid-century or N2, we said, “there are some nice things about this too” Yes it was popular and we did it almost exclusively after World War II but before 1970, there’s still some really good things about that so let’s keep those good things and allow people to use them in new neighborhoods.

Nicole K: So examples of those good things would be…?

Nicole C: Well they generally were built as single level living. They were ranch style, they weren’t as tall. Sometimes they were split levels. Sometimes they had like a half of a second story on them. So examples of this would be like Gorham Park area or Forest Park a little bit. But some of those other places like between 24th and 15th street West – all that kind of was built during the same era. Sometimes they have a two-car garage attached on the side, so the buildings are longer, they face the street directly. So there’s some nice things about that style of building and neighborhood formation. So we said, let’s let’s honor our existing neighborhoods – put that zoning there. And then let’s make sure that we can carry that forward because that is all of those eras. And then the N3 which is the more suburban style that we’ve had over the last 40 years or so. Let’s allow all of those available for new neighborhoods as they come into Billings. 

Nicole K: So N3 they could harken all the way back to the 1920s and 30s craftsman style, or they can honor a mid-century modern style, or they can go the traditional, things that we’ve been seeing they can do anything really in the newer neighborhoods 

Nicole C: Right. That was the intent, so that we allow that flexibility but also some predictability for neighborhoods as it comes in. Because right now a developer can go to the county say, county give me all my zoning and then just annex to the city and say, oh city you’re not involved, sorry. 

Nicole L: Very interesting, okay.

Nicole C:  So that’s one of the reasons for that tool as well – so that the city can be involved in that land use planning decisions, soup to nuts. So that’s another good reason for that. The other part of that PND is that we found some neighborhoods, because of subdivision laws, don’t build any public space for people to use in their own new neighborhood. So what we built in here was that they have to do at least a small area, that they develop. It could just be all grass, but it’s a place for kids to have a little pick up game, kickball, or people just to stand around and chat. Just to be outside together in a public space. Socialization kind of helps people know their neighbors more. 

Nicole K: Yes, that’s true.

Nicole C: Right, so we built that into the Planned Neighborhood Development tool as well. Just a little bit, not a lot, but enough so that every neighborhood has at least some of that. 

Nicole K: A little bit of green space goes a long ways for both beauty and relationships and overall flow of the neighborhood. So yeah it’s been nice to see that in a lot of the newer neighborhoods that are going up as those designated free space areas, it’s really nice.

So going forward now, if people want to learn about Project Recode, so project-recode.com is the website they would go on. They can kind of explore all of that. But if they have, we’re kind of – we’re pretty far into the process as far as public comment and input and changes and things. Where are you guys at in that process right now?

Nicole C: Well I guess at the time this airs, we’ll hopefully be between when it was approved and when they have to vote a second time on it. That’s always required for any zone change like this. Right now we’re just going into the public hearing process scheduled to start on November 9th, hopefully conclude on them November 23rd and then have that second reading in December.

Nicole K: Those are the City Council Meetings where they can tune in to online and check out – or are they doing in person, in person attendance?

Nicole C: The county commissioner’s hearing is on Tuesday, November 10th in the morning and they are you can attend in person at the county commissioner’s hearing room, third floor of the stillwater building. They also doing online, so they’re doing virtual, online, in person all together in the same room. 

Nicole K: Interesting. And is there anywhere, a way, without attending the actual meetings, can people submit comments at all or not or anything and how do they do that?

Nicole C: Right, so on the city website you can go to the Mayor and City Council page and there’s a link there you can click it and you can send an email to all of them at once. 

Nicole K: Oh thanks, okay. And you can probably attach documents, search stuff, pictures, just a standard email?

Nicole C:  Yeah just a standard email that goes to all of them.

Nicole K: Okay that’s handy yeah is there anything about Project Re:Code that you didn’t get to say yet that you would like to? 

Nicole C: Well I guess I would say that the city has done this before. Not in my lifetime. 

Nicole K: Anybody who was alive in 1972 or before they did a lifetime ago, right but not since then. That’s quite a while ago. 

Nicole C: Yeah, so historically speaking the city of Billings has had zoning since July of 1930.

Nicole K: Wow, okay. 

Nicole C: And at that point we had five zoning districts and it was just this down town

Nicole: Which was perfect for what they were doing.

Nicole C: Yeah and then from 1930 until about 1954, that zoning was pretty much the same. And then in 1954 they kind of redid the whole thing.

Nicole K: Okay, just like you guys are doing right now.

Nicole C: That’s right and then we redid the whole thing in 1972 and now we’re redoing the whole thing in 2020. I don’t want to wait 40 years to do this is again.

Nicole K: So it’s nothing new, nothing unusual, it’s something we should probably – so it sounds like in the 50s and so 30s, 50s, 70s and then we missed our 20-year mark and doubled it and now we’re doing it again. So probably should happen fairly often.

Nicole C: Yeah, every time you do your growth policy update, which under state law is every five to eight years basically. 

Nicole K: Wow, so that’s fairly frequent. We should be looking at the current zoning and making sure it appropriates.

Nicole C: Then once it’s adopted, we’re going to probably have about a year of kind of shakedown, fitting in, working the code. And where we’re finding issues or little things that need to be fixed or tweaked or, you know, just like, wow we missed the mark there kind of thing;  we’re going to come back to the city council in four months, seven months and 11 months with all of those like minor things that need to be fixed.

Nicole K: Yeah, okay. One of the conversations I had with you a few months ago was sort of this idea that there are just so many variances that get applied for currently under our current code. I think you had said one of the rumors that’s going around is that the variance process is going away, that what’s in the code is all you’re gonna do now. That’s not true?

Nicole C: Correct. 

Nicole K: Okay, so how many variances you guys were working through triggered some of the need for change, because you were seeing the same things over and over and over again requested in those variances, correct?

Nicole C: Oh yeah.

Nicole K: So a lot of what you’re seeing, or were seeing in those previous variance requests are now built into the code.

Nicole C: Right exactly. So for example, the lot coverage allowed on each lot is very low. 

Nicole K: Currently very low.

Nicole C: Currently very low, what’s allowed. It’s more of a rural type of lot coverage allowance than an urban lot coverage. So we’ve kind of bumped those numbers up. So those types of variances are not going to be coming to us like four times a month. Which is you know, if you have to do one it will probably be the only thing that you ever do in zoning is a zoning variance. Hopefully we’ve kind of relieved some of that pressure by saying, no this is normal, this is okay. 

Nicole K: This is now allowed, you don’t have to come to us for a variance to do that thing.

Nicole C: Right we have what we call the five-minute variance. 

Nicole K: Okay, I would love for anything in the government to take five minutes. Tell me how you’ve done this.

Nicole C: Well the five-minute variance is based on the fact that we go through a month-long process of analysis looking at zoning history. Yes this is the same as the last 10 of these that you’ve done, it’s not a big deal. You get in front of the board of adjustment and it takes them five minutes to approve it. 

Nicole K: Okay so really the whole process isn’t in five minutes, it’s that last portion. 

Nicole C: Right, but it’s something that you would wish, it’s like “oh my gosh why are we doing this again.” 

Nicole K: Yeah so a lot of that will just go away, but it’s not going away entirely. So if there’s something that somebody goes to the new version of the code and they’re like, oh well that still doesn’t work, there’s still going to be a process for them too.

Nicole C: Right exactly. And we’re building in what we’re calling administrative relief so it’s for like the really tiny changes like less than 10 percent of the code requirement and you just need that little bit of room to move the building like a foot. It’s not going to be a whole full-blown variance you make your case, you meet the criteria, and administrative relief and you’re good to go.

Nicole K: Love it. It sounds so much easier than the current process is. Awesome.

Nicole C: Well we hope so.

Nicole K: I think it will be. Any other things that you’ve been hearing that are really common misconceptions about the rezoning that maybe we should cover real quick?

Nicole C: Not common misconceptions. There’s a lot of very specific things that come forward as questions from the written code and then, you know, just clarifying those for folks. I do that a lot. People can call me anytime, 247-8662. Some people have me on speed dial.

Nicole K: I do have your number in my phone now. 

Nicole C: So always available for questions. 

Nicole K: You’ve been incredibly available and incredibly helpful. I do appreciate every time that you’ve got on the phone with me and spent time working through the issues that my clients have had so…

Nicole C: sure absolutely, it’s what we’re here for.

Nicole K: I love it. Okay, anything else?

Nicole C: Nope that’s it. 

Nicole K: Alrighty. Well thank you for tuning in and definitely go check out that website. Put in your property address, see what the current zoning is, see what the proposed zoning is, take a look at what that’s going to mean for you and make sure you understand everything it means. We’ll see you again soon.

General Real Estate

Enzo’s Bistro – Billings Iconic Restaurant Gets New Owner…

Nicole King, owner, and broker of 41 Realty Group, visits Enzo’s Bistro, one of Billings, Montana’s most popular and iconic restaurants. She interviews Tyler Samson, Enzo’s new owner, to find out what he’s keeping the same, what he’s changing, and what his vision is for this beloved establishment. 

An Interview With Enzo’s Bistro New Owner Tyler Samson

Read on for a transcription of the interview with Nicole King and Typer Samson. 

Nicole: Tyler, congratulations, first, on purchasing this property.

Tyler: Thanks. 

Nicole: This is an iconic restaurant in the Billings area, and you’ve made some changes but you’re keeping things the same also. Tell us about us and then also give us a little backstory on how you got here.

Tyler: Ok, well, to make a long story short for how we arrived here in the short term anyways – I owned a bar outside of town. I live in Billings so I was commuting about an hour and a half round trip every day, and I’m also a commercial real estate broker by day for NAI business properties. So I wanted to do something different to shorten my commute at night so that I could make both things work really easily. 

And I had a conversation with James, the previous owner, I’ve know him for about 12 years now, we are good friends. And we had coffee about a year and a half ago and we had kind of started the conversation about me taking this over, and all the ideas starting coming about. And I got really excited and also kind of nervous, especially when COVID hit and we closed actually, at the very end of June on this. So there wasn’t really any game plan written for this, to deal with this, you know, so we’ve had to definitely make some adjustments. But, to be honest with our strong takeout presence and we are at about, about 65% capacity with the layout of the restaurant, keeping that six-foot distance rule. But you know with the takeout and that and I think just since we did a kind of a nice elegant remodel, and made some really nice changes, not only cosmetically but also to the menu, there’s been a lot of demand and a lot of people wanting to come check out the new changes, as well as, you know, the regulars who’ve been dining here for the last 22 years. So I think there’s a lot of excitement, you know, I’m very blessed because we’re actually doing about the same numbers as they were last year, even pre-COVID even with the reduced capacity. On a majority of the nights, we’re even surpassing sales, you know, from a year ago, which I’m very blessed, and yeah, we’re very fortunate for that.

Nicole: Absolutely. So you’ve been a chef in the Billings area for a long time?

Tyler: Not a chef actually. So I went to MSUB here when I was 21. I got into the restaurant industry working in, I started in a casino, just slinging beers and running that and then graduated into a few restaurants. My longest stent was with Walkers for eight years, I worked there through college, and then after college. About eight years ago I became a commercial sales agent with NAI business properties and I had a huge passion for both industries and I was trying to see how to make it work. I’ve actually kind of become one of the premier brokers for restaurants across Montana, so that’s kind of the niche I focus on.

Before this I had the Edgar Bar, and I had actually had that listed for the previous owners, and that’s how we kind of stumbled across it. I bought it with a partner and it was a very successful business, you know, I had that for almost four years before I did this. I’ve been in the restaurant industry for about 15 years, so I have a huge passion. But again, for me it’s also about being able to help other restaurants and casinos and bars, and you know, sell their businesses or have people buy them, so, you know, I handle both sides of the acquisition. It’s really fun.

Nicole: But you probably have great advice on how to be successful, also. 

Tyler: Yeah, it’s been great. I’ve definitely done some consulting with a lot of restaurants I’ve sold, you know, I’ve represented both buyers and sellers, you know, all across Montana for the last eight years. It’s just really exciting and I love being able to, you know, give my personal input and give advice, and, you know, being a commercial agent that owns, has owned a couple restaurants now, and successful ones, and kind of more iconic ones – it definitely helps my real estate career as well. Being able to get new listings where you know people are now coming to me, you know, to list or to help them buy, you know, liquor licenses, or beer and wine licenses, or full establishments too.

Nicole: Absolutely, so what is the top-selling dish here?

Tyler: Right now, anyways, is our Alaskan halibut. Until the end of October, we’re able to get it fresh, so we actually get it second-day air to us. It comes with a certificate on the box, we get it in whole, so we bone it and skin it in-house. Our chefs filet it out and they weigh them out, so you know it’s never been frozen, it’s easily our top seller.

Nicole: It sounds delicious. 

Tyler: It’s really good.

Nicole: What is the time that has carried through from all the previous owners to now that people come back again and again and again?

Tyler: There’s definitely some staples. So when we looked at the menu, my kitchen is led by Alex Bean and Jason Marble, the three of us got together even before I had purchased this before the sale went final and just looked at the menu. We just looked at the menu and, you know, we didn’t want to change anything too drastic. So I would say it’s probably 20% new but 80% we kept the staples, like the veal piccata, the shrimp tempura pasta. Paul loves the vanilla bean creme brulee, he’s been in for that. My favorite is the portobello and mozzarella pasta with fresh pasta with a basil pesto. Everything’s served over a bit of marinara with mozzarella and then we do a grilled portobello cap. So we actually skewer the pasta and then garnish it with two grilled artichokes on top of the skewer, and then we also add some mixed greens in the mix of that and toss in a little bit of balsamic too. So there’s so many different flavor profiles going on, and it is a vegetarian dish but you can add chicken, beef, sausage, or shrimp to it too, so it’s been very popular. 

Nicole: That sounds delicious.

Tyler: So we kind of cater to every palette, you know, we have a lot of gluten-free options, some vegan options, a lot of vegetarian options. We’re doing a lot of steaks right now too, the last couple of weeks we’ve been running a hand-cut 15-ounce ribeye, and we do a homemade Atlantic crab bearnaise sauce over the top, so it’s kind of a nice surf-and-turf with a beautiful presentation. But we’ve been selling out of that almost every single night we feature it so it’s been awesome. 

Nicole: What type of remodeling have you done since you’ve been in here?

Tyler: Yeah, mostly cosmetic for now. We did all new carpet, upstairs and down, we painted the entire interior. Matt The Painter and his team did that, they are going to be doing the exterior here in the next week or two. We added this bar top in so there’s actually seating at the bar with new lighting. We put new lighting upstairs and then I was fortunate enough to get Kira Fercho to display her art here on the walls too, and that’s been amazing. Very stunning. Then I hired Ann Jackson to help with the interior design as well, just for some extra guidance.

Nicole: Ann did a great job. 

Tyler: Yeah, thank you. We wanted to keep it very elegant, keep it classic. We didn’t want modern at all, but yeah we just kind of brightened things up and it just needed kind of a facelift after 22 years, so it was a really fun process actually.

Nicole: So what’s the best way for people to get a hold of you do either order takeout, or to just come in?

Tyler: We’re kind of old-fashioned still, we like the phone call for the reservations, we still hand-write everything in on the reservation book. We don’t have a digital system just because it’s never failed in 22 years so why change it now? We do takeout orders over the phone as well, so usually, we allow a 30-45 minute time slot so that usually when that person walks in to get their to-go food, it literally was just boxed within 30 seconds. Or we’ll see them walk in and then fire and put everything together, so, you know, most of the people with the residential community that we’re surrounded by, you know, they’re home within just a few minutes so they’re still getting the food fresh.

We’re not doing any delivery options. Grubhub does have a small presence here, we don’t advertise with them just because of the quality of the food that we’re serving, we want to, you know, if we give it to a third-party courier that takes it out, we really have no control of how it’s handled and taken care of when it leaves here so we want it to be as fresh and hot as possible for the guests. 

Nicole: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that experience, where I order something, and 45 minutes later it’s at my door and it’s…not great anymore.

Tyler: Right, yeah. We take a lot of pride in what we do and you know, being this close to so many houses, a lot of people are coming from downtown or the heights, they get the food on the way home and they can go have dinner with their families. Or, you know, especially now with the bar and we added a beautiful chef’s table right in front of the kitchen. A lot of people can, you know, have a drink while they wait for their food as well, so it’s been really nice. With the limited seating, to add the bar seating and the chef’s table, you know, to add the extra seating has definitely helped us out. We had to get kind of creative, you know, just to get people in seats.

And then this spring we’re going to do a really nice, kind of a glamorous patio too. So it’ll be really fun, we’re excited about that. I was going to do it in July, but with all the COVID spiking across the nation, I was a little worried about doing that, putting the money and the work into that and then getting shut down, you know, and not being able to utilize it so we’ll do that for sure this spring.

And then, I can’t announce it right now, but we have a huge exciting announcement at the end of October and we’re going to have a big, kind fo a grand event as well that we’ll start advertising for.

Nicole: I want to get invited to that.

Tyler: Definitely, you’re on the list.

Nicole: Everybody heard, I get to be invited to the grand event. Is there anything else that you would like people to know?

Tyler: That’s about it, you know, it was very important for me to keep Enzo going and keep it in the community. Like you said, it’s an iconic restaurant and I wanted to be able to, you know, basically, enhance what was already here, keep it in the community. I didn’t want anybody else with a new concept coming in here or a startup, you know, it’s very important to respect the history and just try to enhance. Our biggest thing we teach, you know, is hospitality here, you know, we like to customize the experience for the guest. I always tell everybody, it’s what the guest remember the most is how we made them feel. When you compare that with amazing food, it’s just kind of a winning combination. Want to see more great interviews and videos around Billings, Montana? Subscribe to 41 Realty Group on YouTube today and never miss out on everything that is great about our town.