Luxury at a Bargain

By Beacon Staff

Dusty Dziza believes affordable and luxurious aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. At Element 54, a development in Evergreen that strives for a hip urban feel, a condominium owner’s mortgage payments can be as low as $524.

Dziza, a Realtor for Keller Williams, said the condominiums qualify for a variety of federal loans. The loans, coupled with the possibility of the first-time homebuyers’ tax credit, create mortgage payments that would stand up well in the Flathead Valley’s rental market.

The concept, Dziza said, makes sense in the current economy, especially considering the available loans and federal perks. In a region reeling from housing market woes, the idea seems a particularly suitable fit.

“We are the first to bring a project like this,” Dziza said. “The biggest thing we were trying to do is create something different.”

Finished in June, Element 54 currently has 12 condominiums ranging from 851 to 1,036 square feet. As the name suggests, project coordinators plan to eventually have 54 condos at the development, which is located at 161 Bando Lane behind Ashley Furniture.

Half of the condos are rented out at the moment, but Dziza says the ultimate goal is to sell them. The units cost between $124,000 and $139,000 to purchase. A person with an annual income of $18,500, Dziza said, could qualify to buy a unit. Dziza said most condominium developments are not approved by the Federal Housing Administration.

“The big thing is they qualify for the government loans,” Dziza said.

Among the available loans are rural development and rural housing direct options through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA’s loan assistance program, however, has struggled and is facing financial troubles.

There are several payment options: rent, rent-to-buy or purchase, with financing options. Maintenance, Dziza said, shouldn’t incur many more additional costs, as the property’s homeowners association will be responsible for upkeep. This includes mowing the lawn, snow removal and any other exterior maintenance. The homeowners association fee is $85 per month.

Landscaping is in progress right now, but it is expected to be extensive. There will be a gathering area for the homeowners and renters to use for social occasions, as well as storage areas and features such as kayak racks on the outside of the building. There is an overall communal feel to the development.

“This is really kind of a lifestyle,” Dziza said. “That’s what we’re creating here.”

As for the condos themselves, they achieve the project planners’ goal of urban flair, something more common in Seattle than Kalispell. Or as Dziza said, they are “sleek and stylish.” Using an “open-space concept,” the condos provide a spacious feel that belies its actual square footage. The upstairs units have balconies, while the ground-level condos have patio areas that open up into the project’s landscaping.

Each unit has at least two bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as two parking spots in an adjacent lot. The floors consist of either hardwood and laminate surfacing. The doors are hardwood with stylish glass arrangements. The bathrooms have granite countertops, while all cabinets are hardwood, which Dziza said is “very rare in this price range.” If desired, the units can come fully furnished, Dziza said.

“There are so many people renting that don’t know they could afford to own,” Dziza said.

Check out www.element54mt.com for more information.