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Belgrade Subdivision Reapproved by Planning Board

by Tim Hart

The Belgrade City / County Planning Board reapproved a 357 lot project this week—a project that had already been given the green light in 2006. The Ryan Glenn Estates project was once again approved, after the original project fell through during the recession. Glenn’s project went under after an Arkansas Bank that had funded the project had also folded. This subdivision is yet another recently approved development to increase home inventory and supply for the valley. Home values holding true, despite the increased inventory, reflect positively on the state of the market in Gallatin County.

With the re-approval of the subdivision, Ken Williams, one of the current owners, can now develop the land as it had been intended 9 years ago. The project will be built in 7 phases and is located at the corner of Penwell Bridge and Lagoon Roads.

The board added 3 variances to increase the city block length in the subdivision, eliminate curbs, and eliminate pedestrian ramps on the two major roads. The planning board also added a covenant eliminating future homeowners right to interfere with the nearby Gallatin Speedway. The board will also address the future of two of the lots in the development that are located on a floodplain. The board will decide whether to reshape them or eliminate them. Finally, the board wants to use cut-off street lighting to avoid light pollution in the area.

The growth of the Gallatin Valley has become increasingly evident. Subdivision projects like this one show that developers have regained their confidence that there are enough homebuyers waiting in the wings to legitimize the increase in supply. Bozeman and Belgrade’s home inventory has grown without creating many vacant lots, a positive sign for growth. Low mortgage rates and the lack of rentals in the area have created a deep source of potential buyers.

 

Source: http://www.belgrade-news.com/news/article_3f64b242-a5e0-11e4-9fe1-2bae5a6c51cc.html

Foreclosed On Home Buyers Returning to Market

by Tim Hart

According to Realtytrac, nearly 7.3 million people who have had their homes foreclosed on during the recession will once again be able to buy a home in the next 8 years. More than 500,000 foreclosed on homeowners will be eligible for a new home loan this year.

In general, homeowners can recover from a foreclosure in as little as three years. Realtytrac gives a more conservative number—seven years—for how long it will take these people to rebuild their credit score. By doing the math, homeowners who lost their homes in 2007 and early 2008 should now be able to qualify for financing.

As previously mentioned, 500,000 of these homebuyers, a.k.a. boomerang buyers, will be able to become homeowners once again in 2015. Next year, 1 million additional homebuyers will be added to the pool. By 2018, that number increases to 1.3 million. Low mortgage rates, low mortgage insurance rates, and new low down payment mortgages have also freed up more of these homebuyers.

Oddly, these buyers will most likely be able to find homes they can afford in markets that had originally put them in their unfortunate situation. Towns and districts with high foreclosure numbers during the recession still have the most affordable home prices. Hopefully, with that negative experience still on the forefronts of our national conscience and with the new government regulations enacted since, these buyers and their lenders will not find themselves falling into the same pattern that occurred during the recession.

Assuming all goes well, having more buyers return to the market will help the housing sector of the economy grow. Home prices may rise slightly, but having a big base of homebuyers should provide more stability and confidence for builders who can increase home inventory without concern.

 

Source: http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/27/real_estate/boomerang-homebuyers-foreclosed-return/index.html

 

Bozeman Approves Plan for Fiber Optic Project

by Tim Hart

The City of Bozeman has approved a plan to lay a fiber-optic cable network throughout the city to improve high-speed Internet availability, cost and quality. City commissioners made a few changes to the earlier plan advocates had submitted in late December.

The main change will not put the city in direct control and ownership of the cable network, but will shift the responsibility to a new non-profit that will manage and oversee the cable project.

The change will keep the city from becoming the “internet service provider.” Now, the non-profit will lease conduit from the city, but own the fiber optic cable inside the conduit. It is assumed that they would then lease to private companies who can benefit from leasing cable, rather than dig their own at a higher upfront cost.

Although not exactly a change, the city has affirmed that the system will not be targeted towards residential users, but homes near the cables may be able to take advantage and “plug in” so to speak.

Those looking for commercial real estate in the city will be happy to hear that their Internet costs will in all likelihood go down. An increased Internet infrastructure, though not directed at residential homeowners and buyers, may still lead to some benefits for them. The benefits seen from private companies may allow them to lower both home and business rates because their high up front capital costs for laying fiber optic cable may allow them to price residential more competitively.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/city/commissioners-again-endorse-bozeman-fiber-project/article_8bcb9ec2-a5e8-11e4-955c-0bc487d83c94.html?utm_medium=desktop&utm_source=block_953010&utm_campaign=blox

Graduation Rates Hit New Highs in Montana

by Tim Hart

Graduation rates for high schools in MT rose to their highest level since 2000, with Gallatin County’s five High Schools included. For the state of Montana, graduation rates rose to 85.4 percent. Four years ago, the total was at 80.7 percent.

Of Gallatin County’s five public high schools, West Yellowstone came in 1st at 92.3 percent. Manhattan High came in at 90 percent, Bozeman High with 88.1 percent, Belgrade High with 86.8 percent, and Three Forks High with 84.2 percent. Of Montana’s 14 AA high schools, Bozeman ranked third, behind Missoula Sentinal and Helena Capital.

Montana’s drop out rate also improved over a four-year period, from 5% to 3.7 percent.

Bozeman High School’s graduation rate (88.1 percent) jumped by more than 4% from 4 years ago. School officials gave credit to teachers, students and parents for the improvement, but also noted their hard efforts with their new programs and availability of online courses.

The school’s drop out rate fell from 3.3% to 2.9 percent. Economically disadvantaged students who make up around 20% of Bozeman High’s student body saw their graduation rate rise from 66.7 percent 4 years ago, to 75.8% currently. School leaders recognized those numbers can still improve, but hope that their new pilot, public preschool program can help shorten the gap.

High schools in Gallatin County continue to improve their high standards. Their hard work and commitment to excellence have led to many homebuyers specifically seeking out these schools for their children.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/education/graduation-rates-hit-new-highs-for-montana-and-bozeman/article_e0844740-9c3b-11e4-8de7-2fe72eb9b268.html

Legislators brought forth House Bill 168 for approval this week with the hopes of finding a compromise between a recent judicial ruling and the subdivision developers caught in between a major policy shift.

This October, Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled that developers would have to acquire water rights for wells drawing from the same aquifer (read more about his ruling here). Before his ruling, subdivisions were allowed to drill an unlimited number of small, private wells without needing a water permit. The ruling closed a loophole that allowed these subdivisions to pull more water than some farms and ranches with senior water rights without paying anything additional. However, developers who had already applied for a subdivision permit or who had even drilled a few wells were left unsure if they would now have to abide by this new policy.

With passage of the new house bill, those who had already applied before the ruling would be treated under the same requirements they had been subject to beforehand. Developers who apply as of now will be subject to the new ruling.

The bill is unique in the fact that is has been approved by both real estate and agricultural groups—groups usually at odds when it comes to Montana water rights. No opponents spoke against the bill, although 4 other bills addressing the same issue are currently being drafted.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/environment/bill-would-grandfather-wells-for-developing-subdivisions/article_7695aa7e-9c52-11e4-8474-db970fb2ff57.html

Potential Expansions Coming for Sacajawea Middle School

by Tim Hart

 

Sacajawea Middle School may see some expansions in 2016, thanks to a rising enrollment in Bozeman Public Schools. The middle school has 40 classrooms that can hold up to 750 students. If eventually approved, the middle school will join Petra Academy (private) on the list of upcoming school expansions in Bozeman, showing the continued growth of the area.

As of now, enrollment has not hit 750 students, but many of the other rooms are currently used for other purposes than a traditional classroom. Physical Education classes have taken a few of these open classrooms with aerobic equipment, weights and other resources. After looking at demand and enrollment in Bozeman Elementary schools, many officials believe the school will not be able to keep up within the next few years.

School officials have looked into hiring an architect to evaluate the feasibility of a middle school expansion. After the evaluation, the school would need to design and approve construction bonds for a fall vote in 2016 to local Bozeman residents.

The expansion project is still in very preliminary stages and ultimately may not go through. As Bozeman has grown, so have the schools. Staying ahead of the curve on space issues in Bozeman will help maintain the high quality and reputation these schools have earned.

 

Source: http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/bozeman-middle-school-looks-to-expand-facilities/30669960

Mortgage Rates Hit 20 Month Low

by Tim Hart

Freddie Mac announced the average rate for a 30-year conventional loan fell to 3.73% this week. The average rate fell from last week’s number of 3.87% and from 3.89% in later December, thanks to another strong week for the domestic economy, especially in comparison to continued financial struggles in Europe and Asia.

The average rate for a 15 year fixed loan also fell this week to 3.05 percent--down from 3.15 percent. 15 year mortgages are most popular with those looking to refinance and the low rates should be noted by anyone paying a 30 year fixed rate mortgage. Many homeowners have a great opportunity to save on their mortgage.

Both mortgage rates fell due to a strong outlook on the domestic economy. Unemployment benefit requests declined this week and wages continue to see improvement. As the Holidays seemed to prove, consumer confidence has also greatly increased in the US.

As investment in Europe and Asia has struggled, many investors are turning towards purchasing government bonds and securities. Yields on securities issued by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have fallen recently, perhaps due to their current demand. These securities encompass around 60% of all US mortgages. Bond investors have accepted lower yields on these securities, allowing mortgage bankers to charge lower interest rates to their customers.

Banks have also been trying to attract milennial first time home buyers to the market, who, as of yet, have not been buying up homes like previous generations.

Again, great news for home buyers, home owners and refinancers. Interest rates really add up over the life of a loan, so this kind of adjustment can really benefit buyers years down the line. Coupled with lower mortgage insurance rates, many home buyers who were not eligible even a month ago, may now be approved for a loan.

 

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-re-freddie-mac-mortgage-rates-20150108-story.html

State Park Attendance Up Again

by Tim Hart

Montana State Parks had more than 2.2 million visitors in 2014. Visitor totals grew by 3 percent, more than 40,000 more than in 2013. Not only that, but Montana State Parks broke the record for most visitors in their history for the second straight year.

In general, most visitors to the state parks were Montana residents—80% in fact. However, in the Southwest region of Montana (that’s us!) nearly 345,000 visitors were nonresidents. Those numbers are inclusive of the greater Yellowstone area, but not the National Park proper, which sees even higher visitation numbers. After some quick math, that meant 15.6% of the total 20% of nonresidents visiting Montana were actually visiting the Southwest Montana area. Over the past decade, state park numbers have increased by nearly 33 percent.

The percentage of nonresident visitors to Southwest Montana really stood out to me. Southwest Montana, Yellowstone, and the greater Gallatin Valley continue to see increased exposure on the national consciousness, for both its summer and winter outdoor opportunities. As more tourists continue to visit, more of these people may find themselves falling in love with the area, a feeling us Montana residents know too well.  The Gallatin Valley continues growing in part because in part, it sells itself so well to its visitors.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/state/record-numbers-visited-state-parks-in/article_1a9fa933-7ab7-53ce-8bb9-44bc14e89657.html

Total Home Values Up in the US

by Tim Hart

The total value of all homes in the United States grew for a third straight year according to zillow.com. The total value of all homes in 2014 reached 27.5 trillion dollars, up 1.8 trillion from 2013.

In 2013, home values had grown up to 25.7 trillion, up 1.9 trillion from 2012. From 2012 to 2013, home values rose by 7.9 percent. From 2013 to 2014, home values rose by 6.7 percent.

Between 2007 and 2011, home values had lost nearly 6.3 trillion. The attached graph indicates the new growth in comparison with the recession (updated through 2013). With 2014’s continued growth, the graph reveals a positive trend.

The value of homes is increasing, whether it’s through a rising inventory of new homes or prices themselves are going up (though probably both). So long as growth can remain consistent overall, the housing market should continue stabilizing and improving.

 

Sources: http://www.zillow.com/blog/us-homes-total-worth-27-5-trillion-166623/

http://www.zillow.com/blog/value-us-homes-to-top-25-trillion-141142/

FHA Lowering Mortgage Insurance Rates

by Tim Hart

The Federal Housing Administration announced that it will lower the cost of its mortgage insurance for potential borrowers. The White House released a statement that they will lower the mortgage insurance rates from 1.35% of the loan’s value, down to 0.85 percent. Mortgage insurance is designed to keep lenders safe whenever a borrower defaults on their loan.

The change to the mortgage insurance rates could save a first-time homebuyer $900 a year on their payments. For a lot of buyers sitting on the fence, this may be the starting gun for which they were waiting. The White House believes that more than 250,000 additional, potential home buyers will now be able to purchase a home and stay within their means. Homeowners who already have an FHA loan will have the opportunity to refinance and also see similar savings.

The FHA had raised mortgage insurance after the 2008 recession. However, rising home values, a larger, wealthier workforce, and declining foreclosure numbers gave them the confidence to let off slightly on the reins of the housing market.

How many buyers will be enticed into buying is yet to be seen, but anyone looking for or has an FHA loan should discuss the changes with their lender and see what potential savings could be had.

 

Source: http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/07/real_estate/fha-mortgage-insurance/index.html

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 323