Prime time to make a move

headquarters1-clrBy Phil Bloom

OWAA President

It was a smart business move when OWAA purchased its current headquarters office in Missoula, Mont., almost nine years ago.

It might be one of the smartest moves our organization ever made, especially since we self-financed the purchase.

It would be an equally smart move today to sell what we have and relocate to a more suitable workplace.

Seeking suitability does not mean our office is run down, unsafe, unclean, too small or too big. What some members may not know is that we actually don’t own a building but instead have one piece of an office condominium that is shared with other owners.

It’s that arrangement that factors into contemplating a move, but more on that later. The most compelling reason to relocate is we’re sitting on a gold mine.

During the Bismarck conference, your board of directors authorized Executive Director Kevin Rhoades to explore options. His research is enlightening to say the least, including the strong belief that we appear to be in the right place at the right time compared with dismal real estate markets elsewhere in the country.

Web site backs up what Kevin has been telling the board – that Montana real estate has been “bucking the trend in the national real estate recession.” Although Montana has ranked among the top three states in improving home sales over the past 15 years, the Web site predicts a downturn even for bright spots like Missoula.

Although we know what we have in our current headquarters (and we owe no one but ourselves for the remaining debt), hearing the gloomy Missoula forecast only heightens the urgency to act sooner rather than later.

OWAA paid about $230,000 for its current digs, a 1,700-square-foot unit that is considered the prime spot in the building. We borrowed the funds from ourselves, actually the Bodie McDowell Scholarship Fund, and gradually repaid most of the debt.

Kevin’s preliminary calculations, based on the sale of another unit and private conversations with Realtors, indicate the fair market value for our corner of the building is north of $400,000.

If that holds true, we could pay off the building debt ($86,000), buy a stand-alone property, spruce it up, still have money left over and significantly improve our cash flow by being debt free.

And, if we want to sit on our profits for awhile, we could temporarily relocate to our former office space at Fort Missoula, which is renting for $400 less per month than we paid 10 years ago. That would allow us to ride out any market turbulence while taking our time looking for a new home in the Missoula area.

The bottom line is we have options, good options. They are in our favor now, but they may not be for long, so the board of directors is making it a high priority topic at the winter meeting this month in Indianapolis.

What’s not acceptable is a troublesome situation at our current home – the condominium partnership agreement. There are two other partners besides OWAA, including one who owns half the building and thus has two votes to our one and the one belonging to the other single-unit owner.

OWAA pays $6,000 dollars in annual fees to the Hickory Trail Condo Association, which covers such costs as building maintenance, lawn care, outside lighting, sprinkler maintenance, sidewalk improvement, insurance, etc. Other occasional expenses – snow removal, garbage removal, parking lot sealing – are shared by the partners. OWAA’s share of the condo association fees are expected to climb to $8,000 annually in the next couple of years.

The partner who owns half the building moved in more than five years ago.

“He has expensive tastes,” Kevin said. So does the other partner.

How expensive?

The association paid $2,600 to an outside firm for spring cleanup, something the previous partners did themselves. In addition, one partner has taken over building management and is billing us for the service, which had been shared before on a cooperative, volunteer basis.

Perhaps most excessive is other owners’ plans for a $10,000 fence project, a proposed $20,000 pond-improvement upgrade and who knows what else down the road. None of these are projects Kevin believes are needed, and they certainly aren’t anything he wants to put OWAA funds into.

If those proposals come to a vote, we will lose and be compelled by the condo association bylaws to pay our share.

That’s money OWAA doesn’t have, and the best way to avoid the problem is to parlay our valuable asset into something better a home that is truly our own.


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