C-Falls sees strong demand for commercial real estate

A zip line. A former used car sales lot. A historic hotel.

Those are just some of the commercial properties that have come up for sale in the past few months as the real estate boom in and around Columbia Falls continues.

David Girardot, a real estate broker with Pure West Real Estate, said demand continues to be high in the area, with buyers doing what’s known as 1031 exchanges from larger markets.

A 1031 exchange is a real estate investing tool that allows investors to swap out an investment property for another and defer capital gains or losses or capital gains tax that they otherwise would have to pay at the time of sale. This method is popular with investors looking to upgrade properties without being charged taxes for the proceeds.

Locally, several notable properties have hit the market.

The Izaak Walton Inn in Essex and Halfway Hotel is listed for sale at $17.95 million.

The Inn sits on a 100-acre campus just outside Glacier National Park off Highway 2. It is also a stop for Amtrak and has excellent cross-country skiing as well as access to the Great Bear Wilderness. The Halfway Hotel is farther east down the road.

Both properties are privately owned by Brian Kelly.

The Glacier Ziplines is also for sale on US 2 in Columbia Heights.

Unlike the Inn, it includes no property, just the business, the tower and equipment, for $449,000, noted Girardot, who is the broker on the sale.

The business is operated on state-owned land under a lease.

Another notable property is the former Joe’s Auto Sales. The owners have retired, noted broker Tim Killen of Keller Williams Real Estate.

It’s listed for $1.62 million and sits on an acre of land.

Girardot does an annual report of commercial real estate in the valley. He noted that demand for industrial spaces of 15,000 to 25,000 square feet has been particularly high.

“Demand for industrial sites with buildings greater than 20,000 square feet continues to exceed the supply. The dwindling number of sales for 2021 is due to a lack of inventory of industrial buildings,” he said in his annual report following 2021.

Marijuana businesses have spiked demand, as Montana legalized recreational use.

One key measure of demand is the number of days a property is listed.

In 2020, for example, retail listings were on the market for an average of 201 days. In 2021, 136 days.