Privacy in Today’s World of Luxury Real Estate

The Platinum Team at PureWest | Christie’s in Bozeman has a fairly standard list of questions we ask potential buyers when they first contact us in order to help determine the available properties most likely to fulfill their needs, requirements, and dreams. Price? Number of bedrooms? Acreage? Style of the home? Square footage? What are the most important features and attributes you want in your home? Nearly everyone contemplating buying a quality, luxury property here, in Bozeman, Montana, respond by saying they want views, and live water or a water feature. Then, third or fourth on the wish list is “privacy.”

What, in today’s world, is privacy? When a client requests privacy, we begin qualifying their definition of what that entails. If your point of reference is that you currently live in a 2,000 square foot apartment in a large building in a major metropolitan city, your concept of privacy is probably different from a person living on a 2,000 acre farm in South Dakota. This past month, Sally worked with two sets of buyers who both sought views and privacy. One couple told her, as they stood in the yard of magnificent home located on a knoll overlooking the entire Gallatin Valley, that they loved knowing that, at night, they’d see the lights of Bozeman twinkling in the distance. The other couple commented, standing a few days later in the exact same spot, “Oh, God, no! We don’t want to see Bozeman over there.” They pointed south, to the town 5 or so miles away. “It would ruin our whole sense of privacy,” they continued. “We don’t want to know there are people out there.”

Privacy is defined as the quality or state of being apart from others. Privacy includes the concept of belonging to or being intended for a particular individual or group, and being restricted to the individual. Each individual has their own sense of boundaries, both physical, mental, and emotional. There are those who are content by having their own room within a house or company, with a door they can close, knowing no one will enter without knocking. Others want to live at the end of a gravel road with the closest neighbors so far in the distance they never know they exist.

Non-commercial land in Montana is owned either by the state or federal government, by families or companies in large ranch holdings, held privately in conservation easements, or has been subdivided into smaller parcels. Not too many years ago, Montana was a vast land of private ranches, mining operations, and state/federal holdings. Towns were small and spread far apart. Montana is the fourth largest state in the Union, and it is only in the past 5 years that the population has reached a million. Gallatin Valley and Bozeman is the fastest growing area in Montana, and with the growth, privacy is an issue that becomes more relevant.

Is privacy related to your acreage? To the distance between you and your neighbor’s home? To whether or not you see other homes and lights at night? Does it involve sound? If you hear road traffic, or a neighbor’s barking dog, does that destroy your sense of privacy? Is privacy tied to Homeowners Associations and Covenants? We encounter buyers who are adamant that they do not want to have any covenants or Homeowners Association because they feel it is an invasion of privacy for another property owner to tell them what they can—or can not—do with their property.

A valley as rich and desirable as Gallatin Valley has very little vacant land available for purchase. A majority of the homes in the Valley, and Bridger Canyon, are on land that is difficult to further subdivide. Within the Valley itself, the trend in the past decade has been to cluster homes in subdivisions with small lots (less than an acre) while creating open space for the homeowners within the subdivision to enjoy. The finiteness of land, coupled with water rights and restrictions on permitting wells, has resulted in higher density neighborhoods being created. Twenty acre parcels are difficult to come by and are priced in the six-figures. Twenty acre parcels with views, within a 5 mile radius of historic downtown Bozeman, cost $500,000 to $1,200,000. Smaller parcels, with mature trees that block neighbors, are also difficult to obtain and pricey, and are—more than likely—within an existing subdivision with covenants and a Homeowners Association.

We seem, as a country, to be increasingly altering our definition of privacy. The recent revelation about the NSA tracking everyone’s phone records has set off a new debate and dialog on when does national security supersede individual privacy. We now know that our credit card purchases, sites we visit on line, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, organizations we donate to or join, Facebook pages, and many other daily patterns we evolve are being compiled and tracked for targeted marketing, data gathering, and who knows what else. If you wish to opt-out, you need to go through numerous steps, and even then it is not guaranteed. So, what is privacy?

We have choices. We make decisions. There are many ways in which Bozeman people work together to insure the quality of life for all, which includes the right to privacy. Few things are more important than family, health, and home. The degree to which we define privacy and take steps to help insure our own privacy are personal. Montana has a long history of individual freedom and individual responsibility. Life here is based on “The Code of the West”. Privacy and personal freedoms are very much respected. Neighbors tend to be as friendly as you are towards them. If you wish to be left alone, most Montanans will happily oblige.

There are some things that seem to restrict privacy, yet, in actuality, enhance privacy. An example is Homeowners Associations and Covenants. We believe they are a good, positive thing in Bozeman. You do need to be aware of the culture of the individual Homeowner Association, as each has its own outlook and personality. And, you need to study the covenants as they clearly explain the rules for each owner within the subdivision in regards to property usage. Covenants exist in order to avoid confrontations and to insure that property values and visual aesthetics are maintained. Without zoning and covenants, you could end up with a gravel pit next door, or a late night business with a flashing neon sign. However, for some, these rules and regulations infringe on privacy. Fortunately, you have the rights to decide if you can abide by the covenants prior to purchasing the property.

What’s your definition of privacy? It’s an on-going dialog and debate, and there are many points of view and sensibilities. The Platinum Team at PureWest | Christie’s in Bozeman, understands that each buyer has their own comfort zone and that our job is to weigh all the possibilities and to work with the buyer to help identify which high-end property is right for them.

There’s a reason to call us.