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6 Things To Do Before You Take That Vacation

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Summer is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean that vacation time is over. Did you know that August is the second most popular month of the year to travel? With 36% of respondents vacationing this month, it’s a good idea to prepare your home to be unoccupied for days or weeks at a time.

There are many precautions you can take to ensure your home stays safe while you’re away. Here are a few tips to help reduce the risks:

  • Only 17% of homes in America have a home security system, and homes without one are three times as likely to be burglarized. While these systems are not cheap, they are a wise investment and can save you a headache and a lot of money later down the road.​​
  • Putting a hold on your mail and newspaper for the duration of your time away will make it look as though you are home, or at the very least, that someone is stopping by your house regularly to collect the mail.​​
  • This may seem like an obvious one, but is easy to overlook while packing and running last minute errands before you leave town. Lock all windows and doors and once you’ve locked them, double-check just to be sure.​​
  • We’ve all been told at one point or another to put our lights on a timer while on vacation, but smart bulbs like these can be programmed through your smartphone and controlled from wherever you are. It may also be a good idea to switch up the times that you activate the lights every day to further create the illusion that someone is home.​​
  • It may seem silly to water the plants, clean up the yard and mow the grass before leaving on vacation, but think about it– a home with a tidy yard implies that the home is occupied, and is more likely to deter a burglar.
  • You never know when a power surge will happen, so why take the risk while you’re away? Disconnect any electronics that don’t need to stay plugged in, such as the TV, your laptop, a hair dryer, etc.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about security measures to take the next time you leave for vacation and leave your empty house behind– after all, a vacation is intended to be relaxing, so don’t stress out!


Related articles: 

5 Areas to Focus On: How to Increase Your Home's Resale Value

Looking To Sell? 5 Projects to Improve Your Curb Appeal

Top Home Improvement Projects That Sell

The Path of Totality— What You Need to Know About the Total Solar Eclipse

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Most of us have probably heard about the total solar eclipse that will literally sweep the nation on August 21st, but in case you haven’t, here are a few key facts about the upcoming celestial event:

  • The path of totality cuts across the United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.
  • The distance from Lincoln Beach to Charleston is around 3,000 miles–the eclipse will cover this distance in about an hour and a half.
  • The path of totality is approximately 70 miles wide.
  • An estimated 12.25 million people live inside the path of totality, and anywhere between 1.85 million and 7.4 million people will travel to the path of totality on August 21st.
  • The longest amount of time that the moon will completely block out the Sun is a short 2 minutes and 40 seconds, expected near Carbondale, Illinois.
  • The eclipse will be visible in parts of Europe, Africa, South America and the Arctic, but only as a partial solar eclipse.​​​

https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/statistics/​

Between two and five solar eclipses occur every year, but total solar eclipses only occur once every 18 months or so. What makes this year’s total eclipse so unique is that this is the first time the path of totality has spanned the entire United States from coast to coast since 1918.

The eclipse begins at around 10:17AM MST and by 11:35AM MST, we will be able to view a partial eclipse with a magnitude of about 0.96. This means that we will be able to see 96% of the Sun’s surface blocked out by the moon at that time—the maximum amount that will be available for those of us in Bozeman to view before the eclipse continues along its path to the east coast.

If you want to view the eclipse during complete totality your best bet is to travel 3 hours south to Rexburg, Idaho where you can witness a total eclipse for about 2 minutes and 17 seconds.

Regardless of where you are viewing the eclipse from, it is strongly advised to never look directly at the sun without safety-certified glasses. More than 6,800 public libraries around the United States are distributing free eclipse glasses. Here’s a map where you can view both the path of totality and a list of participating libraries: http://spacescience.org/software/libraries/map.php

You won’t want to miss this rare experience because the next total solar eclipse that will be visible from the United States won’t be until April 8, 2024, with much less magnitude available to us Bozemanites. So get outside on August 21st for a few minutes to stretch your legs, enjoy the sunshine and watch the solar eclipse!

Big Sky Is Booming: But What About Affordable Housing?

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Big Sky Resort is the third largest ski resort in America and attracts 500,000 skiers annually. After announcing a deal with CrossHarbor Capital Partners to merge Moonlight Basin into Big Sky Resort in 2013, the resort now boasts an impressive 5,800 acres of public skiing, with an additional 2,200 acres available to Yellowstone Club members, yet still remains fairly undiscovered. Although a whopping one million cars drive past Big Sky every year, most of that traffic is Yellowstone National Park bound.

The Housing Issue

Between now and 2025, the resort plans on spending $150 million on improvements. The community of Big Sky currently has a population of 2,500 and in recent years has added numerous shops and restaurants, in addition to a movie theater and a full-service grocery store in 2014. The following year, Big Sky Medical Center started offering emergency services and inpatient care.

Although the community is steadily growing and the resort itself has expanded, there is one issue that still raises concern— most of Big Sky’s workforce commutes to work due to the lack of affordable housing available to employees. Recent data shows that Big Sky is short between 900 and 1,200 units, and that roughly 83% of the entire workforce leaves at the end of the day to begin their commute back to Bozeman and other surrounding areas. (image credit: explorebigsky.com)

Is There a Plan?

David Fowler is an architect who has been working on this issue since 2013. He states that the most important thing to do in order to begin solving this problem and creating more affordable housing is the establishment of an organization to begin accepting donations in order to offset land costs. There is a plan in the works that includes the construction of an 18-condo development on a 4.14-acre parcel known as Sweetgrass Hills in the Town Center, but critics argue that 18 condos don’t count for much when the housing shortage is as high as it is.

Additionally, Lone Mountain Land Company (LMLC) is developing two properties in the Town Center that will be targeted for Yellowstone Club, Moonlight and Spanish Peaks employees. One building will contain 16 units (completion estimated at approximately one year) and the other will hold 32 units. Both buildings will likely be rental properties.

While these plans may not begin to take place in the immediate future, the resort plans on moving forward with its $150 million improvements. Last year two new high-speed chairlifts were added to the mountain, one of which has heated seats and plexiglass bubbles to shield passengers from the elements. A number of new restaurants are expected to be opening soon as well. Overall, Stephen Kircher (president of Boyne Resorts’ operations, of which Big Sky Resort is a part) says that both of these projects are early steps in a 10-year plan to add a European experience to the resort. The addition of more real estate and improved services in the Town Center will help his vision become a reality, though it may be several years down the road before we see any significant changes to the area. 

 

5 Areas to Focus On: How to Increase Your Home’s Resale Value

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

It’s the hottest time of year, and with that comes the hottest selling season. When aiming to sell, keep in mind that the littlest changes can often have the largest impact when trying to increase the resale value of your home. Here are a few ideas to get you started on preparing your home to sell this summer, while also getting a great price for it:

  1. Declutter

It is important to keep in mind that some of the changes you will be making may not suit your personal preferences and tastes— that’s okay! Packing away family photos and sports memorabilia will be less distracting during showings. Keep in mind that many buyers cannot visualize a space, and if you have too much “stuff”, this can overwhelm them and leave them with a negative impression of your home.

  1. Spruce up the bathrooms

42% of real estate professionals surveyed by Consumer Reports agree that bathrooms are one of the most important rooms in a home to have in good condition. You can invest as much or as little as you want into renovations and updates, but simple projects such as re-grouting the tile or replacing an old toilet could give you a potential increase in asking price of up to 3%.

  1. Update the kitchen

Millennials currently make up 34% of all homebuyers, and a “modern/updated kitchen” is one of their top criteria when considering which home to purchase. New or repainted cabinets, stainless steel appliances and a fresh coat of paint can completely transform your kitchen and potentially add between 3 and 7% to the asking price.

  1. Give the walls some TLC

Walls should be a backdrop rather than a focal point when trying to sell. Certain colors work better in some rooms than others and may have an impact on selling price. Homes with warm neutrals such as wheat yellow in the kitchen sell for $1,360 more on average. Comparatively, neutrals such as grey-beige win in the living room, adding an average of $1,104 to the selling price.

  1. Remember the curb appeal

The exterior of your home can easily be neglected when renovating the inside, but some potential buyers won’t even make it through the front door if they aren’t impressed with the outside. Basic landscaping, installing outdoor lighting and planting a few flowers can make a world of difference, and may bump up the asking price by up to 5%.  New roofs are also a huge bonus, as it shows buyers that the home has been cared for, and 31% of real estate professionals agree that the roof is an important part of the home to have in good condition.

In order to attract buyers and leave them with a positive and memorable impression, it’s important to spend a little time spicing up your home without going overboard. Researching which projects will suit your home best before spending money on unnecessary renovations will help to ensure that you’re only putting in what you’ll get out when offers start rolling in. 


Related Articles:

Looking to Sell? 5 Projects to Improve Your Curb Appeal

Top Home Improvement Projects That Sell

Expert Tips for Spring Cleaning: Improve Energy Efficiency and Air Quality of Your Home

Workforce Shortage in Montana Has Small Businesses Thinking Outside the Box

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Montana’s unemployment rate was an impressive 3.8% in April of this year, lower than that of the national rate of 4.3%.  However, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) is now facing the issue of a workforce shortage. The DLI anticipates that this shortage will put Montana’s unemployment rate below 2% by 2025.

So Why Is There a Workforce Shortage?

For starters, Montana’s number of retirees (those aged 65 and older) is projected to grow by 7,000 people each year, while the working age population (those aged 16 to 64) is only expected to grow by 475 each year. Simply put, Montana does not have enough people in the working age group to fix this shortage.

On top of this, another reason for the workforce shortage is due to low wages. In the past, employers generally had an adequate pool of candidates looking for work, and were therefore able to pay employees less. Now however, with a lack of applicants, employers are beginning to reconsider what they’ve paid employees in the past, and whether it’s still enough.

While some state legislators have proposed raising the current minimum wage from $8.05 to $10.10, lobbyists have continued to shut the idea down due to concerns that the increase would be too cumbersome for small businesses.

It’s Not Just About the Paycheck

Despite the working age group being so small and some employers having a difficult time filling open positions due to low wages, it isn’t all about the income for some. In fact, many new employees, and specifically millennials, want meaningful jobs where they know that their work will have an impact.

Typically, millennials measure job satisfaction based on flexible work schedules, a collaborative office culture, relaxed dress codes and validity from their employer. Because millennials are more likely to switch careers than other generations (due to feeling a lack of job satisfaction), employers are finding it more difficult both to attract and retain these employees.

What’s Next?

Many Montana government job descriptions are now being tailored to include responsibilities and the influence in the workplace that an employee would have. To reduce turnover and hold onto employees, some employers are beginning to offer flexible schedules, thus drawing in a larger pool of both interested and qualified applicants.

As many smaller companies begin to struggle with the workforce shortage, employers are encouraged to market themselves and their open job positions to appeal to the younger generation. Many businesses may have to reconsider how their positions are structured, and what they can do to entice and keep millennials who enjoy working in collaborative, honest, and fun environments.


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Looking To Sell? 5 Projects to Improve Your Curb Appeal

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

With nice weather becoming a constant and summer just around the corner, this time of year presents a great opportunity for sellers to prepare their homes to hit the market. Many people shop online first, and often times the first image of a home they see is an exterior view. If this initial image doesn’t impress a buyer, they may move on to another home and not continue to consider yours.

These simple projects can help improve the curb appeal of your home if you’re looking to sell this summer:

  • Add a Pop of Color

Because eyes are instinctively drawn to color, adding a few flower pots or hanging flower baskets near your front door or porch can add visual interest and draw positive attention to the exterior of your home.

  • Hang Outdoor Lights

Lighting is a feature that many buyers take into consideration when purchasing a home, and exterior lighting is no exception. Taking the time to install outdoor lighting or hang string lights can enhance your porch or deck area and highlight exterior features of your home that buyers may be interested in.

  • Update Your Fence

Fences, or a lack thereof, are an exterior feature that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Buyers with children or pets will appreciate the presence of a fence because it will create a private and safe area. If you have a fence, consider whether it needs a fresh coat of paint or if any boards are broken or loose. If you don’t have a fence and investing in one is feasible for you, consider the style, color and amount of time it will take to have one installed.  

  • Invest in Landscaping

Adding landscaping to any home can increase the home value and attract the attention of buyers. A few DIY project ideas include planting trees or flowers, cleaning the edges around walkways, or hanging a hammock. While some landscaping projects don’t require the help of a professional, other attributes such as water features or retaining walls may require an investment if you’re looking to up your curb appeal game.

  • Stage an Outdoor Living Room

If you don’t already own patio furniture now might be the time to invest, especially if your home offers views.  Staging an outdoor area with chairs, a table, colorful cushions and an outdoor rug can help buyers visualize afternoons lounging in the sun and evenings spent relaxing with friends, which may contribute to their overall decision to purchase.

While completing these projects isn’t necessary in helping to sell your home, they are all possible options to consider if your curb appeal needs improvement. Regardless of budget or time, there always steps to take in order to add home value and attract buyers' attention.


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5 Easy Steps To An Energy-Efficient Home

Expert Tips For Spring Cleaning: Improve Energy Efficiency And Air Quality Of Your Home

Top Home Improvement Projects That Sell

5 Easy Steps to an Energy-Efficient Home

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

The simplest things can make a big difference in the efficiency of your home. Many homes waste energy that could have easily been saved—but not yours, because you found this article.

Here’s a few easy ways to save a ton of money on your home energy bills:

#1. Choose the Right Windows

Windows are the biggest source of heat loss/gain in a home.

If you own an old home that still has single-pane windows, replace them with newer, energy-efficient windows and you’ll probably see an immediate difference in your energy bills.

A choice as simple as the type of windows you buy can make all the difference. You should always consider frame materials and designs when buying new windows. Hinged windows are more efficient than sliding windows because they allow less air leakage between seams. As for the materials, avoid metal frames because they conduct heat, and choose insulated fiberglass window frames for the best efficiency.

Special note: Choose the right windows for your climate. If you live in cold, wet climates, choose materials like vinyl, fiberglass, or wood-resin composite (windows labeled with U-values less than .3 are the most insulated).

#2. Seal the Leaks

If you see a gradual increase in your energy bills over the years (given prices or anything else hasn’t changed), you might have a leak somewhere on your home’s exterior. If this is the case, you should call an HVAC company and have them do and energy audit on your home to find any hidden leaks.

In the meantime, look around your window frames and doorways, beneath your baseboards, and around flues and chimneys. If you find a leak, you can either use caulk, weather-strips, or foam spray insulation to seal it up.

Special note: Sliding barn doors can make a tighter seal than hinged doors in some cases, because it fits in a slot inside the door frame rather than against it (plus they could go well with rustic styles homes if you have one).

#3. Get a New HVAC System

Older HVAC systems are much less efficient than new and improved designs that are available today. If your current system is more than 10 years old, it would be wise to either get a new one or make improvements to bring it into this decade.

Special Note: Humidifiers can be integrated with your HVAC system to add water vapor to the system’s air flow, which can greatly improve humidity levels during the dry seasons of fall and winter (which might help when you have a sore throat)

#4. Pack More Insulation

The amount of insulation a home has is arguably the most important aspect in keeping your home energy-efficient. We’ve seen a beautiful home in a great location with hardly any flaws but one that turned a few buyers away- the insulation was so bad that the energy bills were outrageous!

Older homes like that one could have insulation that became compressed or shifted out of place over the years. Adding the appropriate amount of insulation to the attic will have the biggest effect, given that it is installed properly with no gaps and with the recommended amount of insulation for the region.

Special note: Adding insulation to your walls does not have to be a big demolition project (unless that’s what you want). Contractors can blow insulation into the walls without tearing all of it down.

#5. Get a Programmable Thermostat

Isn’t it wonderful how advanced technology is getting these days? New programmable thermostats that are available now can be set to change the temperature of your home on a schedule, so you won’t have to remember to adjust it every day before you leave the house. Some new thermostats can even change the settings remotely. Imagine the cost savings!

Black-Olive Proposal Denied by Bozeman City Commissioners

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

The long, drawn out debate over the Black-Olive proposal has finally ended. On April 11th, about 7 months after it was proposed in Sep. 2016, city commissioners decided to nix the proposal after concerns were raised about insufficient parking and blocked views of the surrounding countryside.

Bozeman residents seem to agree with this decision too. A recent poll conducted by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle showed that 65.2 percent of its readers approved of the city’s choice to deny the project.


black-olive proposal public poll

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: “Did Bozeman city leaders make the right choice to deny Black-Olive”

The project’s design was to feature 56 apartments in five stories and a commercial business space on the ground-floor, along with 37 on-site parking spaces.

With the proposed project site located so close to Bozeman’s cherished historic neighborhood south of Main Street, neighboring residents were concerned that the building would ruin “Bozeman’s small-town charm.”  

The major reason why commissioners voted 4-1 to deny the proposal was due to lack of sufficient parking, as all housing projects within Bozeman’s zoning districts require at least one parking space per bedroom. Neighbors in the vicinity to the Black-Olive project site raised concerns about residents filling up already crowded street parking in front of their homes.

So What Now?

The project’s developer, Andy Holloran, wants to regroup, modify the design, and resubmit the proposal for later review. If the parking issue and building aesthetics can be reworked and are in line with the development guidelines for downtown’s zoning district, the Black-Olive project may be revisited and reconsidered in the near future.

The Black-Olive project may have been scrutinized, but that’s not to say that mid-rise buildings are out of the picture for Bozeman. There are still three mid-rise projects that have either been approved, already built, or are currently under construction, including the SOBO Lofts, Element Hotel, and the 5 West Building.

All Current Mid-Rise Development Projects/Proposals

 

Perhaps this was the right project but for the wrong location, given that we may be seeing a reconfigured proposal again soon!

Follow us on Facebook, or sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive exclusive information about the housing market, real estate tips and advice, and local news and development in the Bozeman, Montana area.


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To Buy Before or After Selling Your Home?

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

One of the biggest frustrations in the real estate market is timing. Having another property lined-up after selling a home is not always easy. The ideal scenario for sellers is to close on their current home just as they purchase a new one, allowing a seamless move.

Unfortunately, as in most markets, it’s difficult to accurately predict timing between sale and purchase, causing frustrating conflicts in the transition process. The time-frame for getting a home under contract can range anywhere from days (not uncommon in here in Bozeman, Montana) to months or even years (typically for higher priced homes). This is why hiring a Realtor® is worth the investment to gain market insights about local inventory, months of supply, and other market conditions not entirely available to the public.        

In short, there’s no concrete answer about whether it’s better to buy before or after selling your current home. There are pros and cons to either decision (or outcome).

To Buy First?

Pros

If you have the financing available, buying a new home first may be a viable option. Having a home lined-up in advance has the obvious benefit of relieving pressure on your home search. This is typically the biggest advantage of buying first, because buying a home is no small deal, so you really shouldn’t rush and buy under pressure.

Buying first also allows you to move all your stuff and get your home just right before you move in, and again, without having to rush.

Another benefit of buying first is that, although you may end up having an extra mortgage payment, you won’t have to find a place to rent while searching for a new home. And because most renting agreements require a year lease, renting may not be the best option for you.

Cons

However, there exists the risk of not being able to sell your current home, or at least at the price or time-frame you were hoping for, adding the cost of a second mortgage.

Another major disappointment that you may face when buying first is losing out on your dream home. If you don’t have the funding to purchase a new home outright (as most people don’t), your offer will have to be contingent upon sale and transfer of title of your current home. Depending on how your contract is negotiated, a non-contingent offer may force your hand to remove a contingency in typically a 48 to 72-hour period, or terminate

To Sell First?

Pros

The main advantage of selling first is the strong position it puts you in as a buyer to negotiate, without being tied down by sale contingency terms. Offers tied to contingent-upon-sale contracts can significantly lower your negotiating power, and in a seller’s market, are often rejected.

Another great benefit of selling first is that it will give you the cash you may need for your new home.

Cons

On the other hand, selling your home before securing a new one will obviously entail the risk of not having anywhere to live in the meantime. When selling first, you may have to rent, stay at a friend’s house and pay for storage, or do whatever means necessary to find shelter in your transition between homes.

One way to avoid this, however, is to negotiate “rent-back” terms with the buyer of your current home, allowing some additional time for your home search.    

Why Hire a Real Estate Agent?

As discussed already, Realtors® have (or should have) a firm grip on local market conditions. Having experience and exclusive access to local market statistics, a Realtor® can provide a closer estimate of how long it should take for a home to sell in your neighborhood, and negotiate terms and conditions in your best interest. It’s the job of a real estate agent to be your trusted guide and ensure that the whole process, from marketing to writing a contract, flows smoothly.

With that, I have one last important tip: make sure to properly interview prospective real estate agents before entering a contract. Not all Realtors® have the same experience and wisdom in guiding you through the transaction process. Find an agent that truly cares about their clients and will go above and beyond expectations to serve you. Make sure to read through reviews, ask your friends and neighbors, and do some digging to find the right agent for you.

Follow us on Facebook, or sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive exclusive information about the housing market, real estate tips and advice, and local news and development in the Bozeman, Montana area.


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Bozeman’s 4th Mid-Rise Building Proposed to Replace an Old Grain Mill

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Bozeman’s 4th mid-rise building is currently being scoped out for a site on the east side of downtown. This BG Mill building will have a little more character than the rest though, turning an old grain mill that has been vacant for decades into a 5-story, multi-use building with a mixed modern/rustic style architecture.

The proposed plan for the BG Mill project includes a parking garage and a small commercial space on the ground floor, 18,000 square feet of office space on the middle levels, and 10 condos on the top two levels. The project developers, Michael Ochsner and Chris Lohss, plan to integrate three silos from the grain mill into landscaping features and hopefully keep the “BG Mill” logo for the new building.

Although there has been a long, drawn-out debate over mid-rise buildings changing the character of Bozeman’s small-town charm, Ochsner and Lohss point out that the site, located on the southeast corner of Mendenhall Street and Broadway Avenue, is already surrounded by other existing commercial properties.

While residents are concerned that the Black-Olive project, another mid-rise building proposed for Bozeman, would cast a shadow over Bozeman’s southern historic downtown neighborhoods, the BG Mill project may not cause nearly the same issue.

Positioned between the south end of a neighborhood and the north end of downtown Main Street, the site seems to be better suited for its location where it wouldn’t obstruct views of the Bridger Mountains to the North—a major point in the argument against mid-rise buildings in Bozeman.

The project developers said they haven’t filed an application for the project yet, but plan to do so by next week. Once approved, construction of the BG Mill project is hoped to break ground this summer.

A public meeting will be held at the Bozeman Public Library on April 13 at 7 p.m. to discuss the project and gather feedback from the public.

All Current Proposed Mid-Rise Development Projects for Bozeman.

Follow us on Facebook, or sign up for our monthly newsletter for exclusive access to our latest market stats, expert tips and advice, and local news and development in the Bozeman, Montana area.


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