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At Home in Bozeman Real Estate Blog

Tim Hart


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 380

New Program Pays Portion of Homebuyer’s Closing Costs

by Tim Hart

Fannie Mae announced a new program to help first time home buyers take the final step in their home purchase. Fannie Mae rolled out their new Home Path Ready Buyer Program this last week, designed to help buyer’s who may be cash poor or credit poor.

First time home buyers can now receive up to 3% off the purchase price in closing cost assistance. Depending on the price of the home, that can mean big savings. For example, a $150,000 home can receive up to $4,500 in closing costs savings.

This past year, Fannie Mae also released new low down payment loans to entice buyers to start their home buying process. This program was created for similar purposes.

Any homebuyer who wants to take advantage of the new program will need to take an online course, which includes 9, 30 minute sessions. That may sound like a good chunk of time, but when you break down the previous example, that’s $1,000 in savings for each hour of class. Not bad.

For anyone interested, you can take the course here:


Foreclosures Lowest Since Late 2010

by Tim Hart

Based on a recently released foreclosure report, the United States Housing Market looks to be continuing on its road to improvement.

Foreclosure inventory dropped by 27% in February and completed foreclosures fell by 15% year over year. Even better news… foreclosures have fallen 67% since they hit their peak in September 2010. 

Foreclosure inventory represented 1.4% of all homes with a mortgage nationwide. Although that number is lower than any number seen recently, its still more than double the 0.6% seen from 2000-2004.

Mortgages in serious delinquencies (overdue payment by more than 90 days) also dropped by 19% in February.

Lowering foreclosure totals represent a growing, stabilizing economy. For both the housing market and the overall economic outlook of the US, this is great news. As more buyers and sellers gain back their confidence and reenter the market, the more we can expect to see improvements in real estate.





Montana Unemployment Rate Lowest Since 2007

by Tim Hart

March unemployment numbers were released, bringing more positive news to Montana and the Gallatin County. Montana’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent, down from 4.4% seen earlier this year. That rate is the lowest seen since October of 2007.

The Gallatin County had even lower totals. Only 3.6% of people are unemployed.

The national unemployment rate currently sits at 5.5 percent, also down from 5.7% from earlier this year.

Although the state dropped payroll employees by 500 in March, the state added 8,873 new jobs in the first quarter of 2015.

Coupled with Bozeman’s average cost of living, it makes sense why Bozeman continues to attract those looking to live in a great place, while giving them the opportunity to save money for their life goals.





Montana State University Building Parking Garage

by Tim Hart

Montana State University continues to ride the positive momentum from a growing student enrollment. With recent approval of a new College of Engineering Building at the heart of campus, parking might now be an issue for the growing school. Now, MSU has turned its sights towards a new parking garage to help address the needs of both the students and the public.

MSU had considered several other options to address parking on campus, but ultimately the parking garage dealt best with the issue while offering possible growth in the future.

As MSU has grown, its reputation and quality education have stayed in stride, if not improved at an even faster rate. This past year, MSU attracted its smartest group of incoming freshmen in 25 years. Assuming MSU continues on this track, there is no reason not to expect the school to continue growing.

The parking garage will help address the school’s needs and will be built across from Grant Street and the Strand Union Building—right between the student fitness area and the current parking lots. The new Engineering building will be eating up nearly 400 parking spaces, but the garage will open up around 550 to 600 spaces. Construction will start Fall 2015.

Bozeman’s growth will always be somewhat tied to MSU’s success. So long as MSU continues attracting smart young students, then businesses, parents, teachers and professionals will continue to take part in Bozeman’s economic and housing market growth.




Home Buyer Demand Rising In Real Estate Housing Market

by Tim Hart

Home buyers may soon look like the picture above, as they wait to see that perfect home listing. Ok, maybe not to that degree, but of late, buyers have been lining up to get their chance in the US housing market.

Buyer demand has increased over March and into April across the United States due to low mortgage rates and more, new constructions start-ups adding cheaper inventory to the market.

Mortgage applications rose in the week ending April 4th for the 3rd consecutive week. Applications rose by 7% week over week and were up 12% from the same week in 2014. Mortgage applications are the best barometer for homebuyer demand, so seeing an increase in applications is always positive.

Applications rose by 17% from March compared to February as well. Most attribute the rise in mortgage activity to be due in part to the low mortgage rates seen recently (3.66% for a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage).

Buyer demand has also increased for new construction. Many buyers have opted to wait for a new home, rather than competing with other buyers on an existing home. New construction homes sales have gone up recently because they have found a price point that is appealing for many buyers.




Mortgage Rates Drop in Early April

by Tim Hart

Averaged Mortgaged rates dropped again last week, wonderful news for homebuyers across the United States.

The rates fell because the US employment report fell short of expected totals, adding only 126,000 new jobs in March compared to the hoped for figure of 247,000. Montana may be getting the benefit of both low mortgage rates and low unemployment numbers, making many local buyers more than eligible.

The 30 year fixed mortgage hit 3.66 percent, dropping from last week’s 3.7 percent no longer flirting with 4% as it had in March.

15 year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 2.83%, down from 2.92% last week.

Over the last year, when rates have stayed below 4 percent, mortgage activity has been very high. So long as rates do not increase, mortgage activity is expected to stay true, but in all likelihood grow.

The Gallatin County has seen rising home values of late, making the debate between renting and buying in the Bozeman area a little more grey, but if mortgage rates rise, those who now may be able to afford a home, might not be able to in the future. If renting and buying are financially similar, it would be beneficial to consider homeownership.




Buying Cheaper than Renting Across Most of United States

by Tim Hart

A new study released by RealtyTrac suggests that in most places across the United States, renters are better off buying a home than paying to rent a home. In fact, in 76% of US counties, buying has become more affordable than renting a home.

Currently, the average price of rent on a 3-bedroom property takes 28% of the average homebuyer’s median income. Rental prices have been rising of late due to the high demand across the nation.

With current low mortgage rates, a monthly payment on a median priced home—inclusive of a 10% down payment, property taxes, home insurance, and mortgage insurance—only took 24% of the average homebuyer’s median income. Basically, if a buyer can afford the down payment, there is very little positive to renting over buying in most US markets.

The Gallatin County and Bozeman may still offer advantages for renting, due to the rising home values of both single-family and multi-family properties in the area and high demand from out of town buyers. Home values have gone up nationally, but Bozeman has been outpacing national home value growth by a good margin.

Bozeman’s high demand as a top mid sized town in the US has continued to grow, leading to higher home values. Both Bozeman and its builders are working on solutions to make homes in Bozeman more affordable—both to rent and buy. General growth may not be the sole solution, as building permit applications and approvals have seen high numbers in the past years, but rental rates and home values have not fallen.

However, any financial advantage to renting in Bozeman has become razor thin due to the rising rental market and lack of spaces for rent.

Bozeman has seen higher rental prices due to its proximity to MSU. MSU enrollment hit an all time high this year, increasing demand for properties near campus. Not many college age students can afford to buy a home, raising rental rates in the area. Bozeman Public School enrollment has also increased, showing general buyer interest in Bozeman, helping keep prices high.

Many renters have had to look to Belgrade and other surrounding areas to find affordable rental prices.

Still, in general, for any renters who have saved any form of down payment, whether in Bozeman or the United States in general, now is certainly the time to consider home ownership and turn a never improving rental situation into an improvable, equity building investment.




Bozeman to Reconsider Historic District Regulations?

by Tim Hart

The City of Bozeman will pay $60,000 for an in depth study reviewing the effects of its Historic Conservation Overlay District on the local real estate market. There will be a meeting at 6 pm on Tuesday in City Hall to discuss Bozeman’s next steps.

The Historic Conservation Overlay district is in the heart of Bozeman and is designed to protect old historic structures that contribute to Bozeman’s look and culture. The district encompasses 3,000 properties in Bozeman.

If any of these 3,000 properties want to adjust, renovate or change the exterior appearance of their home, city planning needs to review and approve the changes. On average, the city deals with around 300 applicants a year.

The Overlay District was first enacted when 3 historic homes were demolished for a now closed Pizza Hut on Babcock Street. Since its enactment, the district has succeeded to preserve the historic character of Bozeman. Bozeman recently was honored as a top 100 location in the US for livability--and the city's character certainly affected that rating.

Now, Bozeman has grown concerned that they are over impacting home affordability in town. Each new application for approval takes time and money, not just from the property owner, but from the city as well, and therefore the taxpayers. The city and builders alike have tried to find alternatives to help lower home values in Bozeman. The district has also become a highly sought after location in town and the district has seen property values rise. Those values could also be rubbing off on nearby neighborhoods and even affecting all of Bozeman’s affordability.

Bozeman would like to find out whether this is the case or not. The study will make its final presentation to City Commissioners in September.




I read a wonderful editorial written by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that discusses Bozeman’s overall health and how that connects into the city’s cultural and economic growth. The writer draws some positive conclusions between the amount of public trails available in the area and the city’s overall health.

According to a University of Wisconsin, the Gallatin County was the healthiest county in the state for the sixth year running. In another recent study, Headwaters Economics concluded that well developed trail systems highly impact a number of quality of life issues in any town, both economic and societal. Could they be related? The writer says yes, of course, and highlights that trails can provide a lot more to a town than just physical health.

Trails are considered a “high amenity asset” that benefits businesses, increases property values in the nearby area and promotes overall public health, according to the Headwaters Economics report. The Gallatin County leads the state in low unemployment, Bozeman’s technology industry continues to attract more and more workers to Bozeman, while single-family and multi-family properties alike have seen their values increase rapidly in the last year as well. These facts suggest that the study may not be too far off from reality.

Headwaters Economics has also released figures highlighting the Gallatin County’s economic and popular growth and have also suggested this might be linked to the high amount of public land in the area. Their reports fall in line with the author’s opinion, that the local trails around Bozeman have directly helped lead to the town’s continued growth and prosperity. For the writer, the trails are necessary—not a luxury—and the writer pointed to the 15 million dollar open space and trails bond that was passed in 2012 as evidence that most Bozemanites think similarly.

From a real estate perspective, having nearby activities within walking distance of any home can really add value to that home. When the activity is nature based, healthy, and of course, free, it can attract buyers who may not have looked in a certain neighborhood or street otherwise. Bozeman continues to be a very healthy, positive environment, so it is no surprise that people want to move to Bozeman.  The writer of the article concludes that one of Bozeman’s greatest assets is that people want to move to Bozeman, they don’t have to move to Bozeman. So long as Bozeman remains a “want” place and not a “have to” place, we should expect to continue seeing the growth and prosperity it has enjoyed in recent years.




2015 May Bring Millennials to Home Buying Table

by Tim Hart

Realtor Magazine believes that this year will be the year when millennials, or Generation Y buyers, come out of the weeds and take a seat at the housing market table. The magazine has pointed to rising rent prices, a strengthening job market, and the impending Federal Reserve decision to raise interest rates.

Last year, the number of first time homebuyer purchases sank to its lowest level in 30 years. However, millennials comprised 32% of the U.S. housing market, suggesting they have not been shifting into home ownership as expected. Many experts have pointed to 2015 as the year that trend shifts.

Rent prices have driven or are expected to drive many millennials to purchase a home. Whether locally or nationally, vacancy rates have been extremely low, leading to high prices. Many people have complained about getting priced out of the city they call home. In the United States, leasing costs have risen every quarter since 2010. In the 4th Quarter of 2015, apartment rents in the US increased by 4.6 percent.

The job market has continued to strengthen. Wages and employment totals have been rising over the past year and for those aged 25-34, unemployment fell to 5.4 percent. In Gallatin County, unemployment numbers are even lower. In October of 2009, millennial unemployment was at 10.6 percent.

The Federal Reserve continues to hint at an impending hike to interest rates, so many millenials are expected to get a home under contract before they see mortgage rates increase. Currently, mortgage rates are still below 4 percent.

Finally and a bit obviously, millennials are getting older each year. Each year that passes gives a millennial more time to potentially save the needed money for a home purchase. Financing had been the major factor holding back millenials from a home purchase in 2014.

Whether or not millennials become major players on the housing front is yet to be seen. However, the climate seems right to push the next generation of homebuyers into the housing market.

To read about how each generation falls into the home buyer profile, click here.




Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 380