Real Estate Information Archive


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Shoppers Buying Hardwood Floors and Appliances Online

by Tim Hart

Homeowners have moved online when it comes to major home improvement purchases. Retailers throughout the US have noticed a definitive jump in sales for online sales of appliances, flooring, and other home improvement items. The Home Depot saw a 40% jump in the 3rd quarter online sales, with a high amount of those sales including major purchases. The Home Depot had already seen its online sales grow 50% in the year before. Customers have ordered everthing from washer/dryers to complete flooring jobs for their homes.

Appliance and home improvement products have outpaced the industry average in all four quarters. In quarter 3, the growth rate of home improvement products was 17%, compared to the 11% seen in the overall retail industry. Online furniture sales have also increased and they are expected to rise 15.2% over the next year.

Why consumers have made the switch to online home product shopping may lie in its ease of use. Many major stores like Home Depot offer free delivery and take away services for their appliances. Yet, for flooring work, apparently customers do not feel obligated to touch, feel and see the wood before its installed. A lot of homeowners may be avoiding the sales atmosphere of a normal store by educating themselves on the products in a safer, obligation free environment. Either way, stores have needed to adapt quickly to the changing environment. Home Depot has added increased storage in over 550 stores, to deal with their increased online orders.



Bozeman public schools will once again be on the forefronts of national studies, as they have once again been selected to take part national research. Bozeman has already been selected for a highly competitive mental health program/study this year. Great news reached the district, when they found out that once again they had been selected for a prestigious program.

This study will take 72 Bozeman teachers through an intensive program to improve math teaching. The study is being led by researches at Montana State University, George Mason University, and Harvey Mudd College. The survey has been funded by the National Science Foundation, who offered a grant of 1.3 million dollars.

The project will study 3 public school districts—Bozeman, Fairfax County, and Pomona California. The project will take three years and will focus on teachers’ uses of mathematical modeling and how it affects student performance. Preliminary research has shown that students who work with real world problems feel less anxious about math and will be more likely to view the subject as useful and relevant. The universities hope to see improvement in around 4,000 students between the three districts.

Once again, the Bozeman School District has been selected for a high level educational study. The national radar continues to hover and focus on Bozeman for its outstanding academics, particularly as a public system. Winning such studies will only help make Bozeman faculty all the better at offering Bozeman children the highest quality education possible. Any parent looking at Bozeman should consider the positive momentum that the school district has built and how that may propel Bozeman as an educational haven in the future.




HOA’s in Big Sky Upgrading to Bear-Resistant Trash Cans

by Tim Hart

Three homeowner associations in Big Sky, the Big Sky Owner’s Association, Spanish Peaks Homeowners’ Association and Town Center Homeowners’ Association, will be making the switch to bear resistant trash cans to help improve the number of bears accidentally straying into Big Sky. Trash tends to be the number one attractor of bears, so Republic Services have tried to fix the issue by releasing their new Kodiac Bear Resistant Trash Cans. (Don’t worry! The trash can is just named Kodiac. It is not specific only to Kodiac bears!) Republic services will go through Big Sky and replace the standard blue bins with the new, black, bear resistant bins (again don't worry! They are the color black and can defend off other species of bears as well). The associations who have made the change will see a $6.40 price increase per month for the new cans.

In general, if a bear discovers a food source to be had, it will take advantage. However, if a bear becomes too reliant on city food sources, it can become too bold. Last year, 12 bears were removed from the greater Big Sky area. Nine were black bears that were relocated by the city, two were roadkill and one was poached.

Republic Services hope their new trash cans will help keep bears away from the city, off roads and out of harm’s way. Residents can also feel safer and more comfortable knowing bears will be less likely to make an unexpected house call. Many residents can probably rest easier knowing their trash can will now also be out of harm’s way and that they won’t wake in the morning to find a mess outside their home.

The bear story in Big Sky sheds a lot of light on HOAs and the type of residential concerns they address. Anyone looking to purchase real estate in the Bozeman or Big Sky area should make sure that their HOA’s values and goals match their own values and goals. HOAs can enact positive changes very quickly throughout a neighborhood, as seen in how these three HOAs addressed the growing bear issue However, residents should make sure they know the general perspective of their HOA so such decisions do not take them by surprise.



City of Bozeman Helps Businesses Save Money and Energy

by Tim Hart

The city of Bozeman will help businesses keep the cold out and the warm in while trying to save everyone a dollar along the way. The City of Bozeman Energy Project is a new program designed to help businesses lower their utility costs. The project offers businesses a free energy audit from Northwestern Energy. During the audit, NW Energy goes over the energy issues currently present in the business but they also offer strategies to bring down energy use. If the city’s businesses reduced their energy output by 10%, it would cumulatively save $2.6 million a year.

It’s great to see Bozeman focus on reducing its carbon footprint and creating a more efficient city. But it doesn’t stop there folks! Why stop at commercial buildings when we could apply these practices to residential real estate as well? Although it will not be free, performing an energy audit on your home can also help you create a more efficient household. Is heating the hot tub affordable in the winter? Are you insulating your home sufficiently? An energy audit can help answer those questions and help save you money on your utility bill.

The City of Bozeman Energy Project has already found that many businesses have outdated lighting. Lighting retrofits can save a lot of energy and adding new efficient bulbs can really add up over time. These rules also apply to the home. Make sure to walk through your home and see if you are missing any easy energy/money savers.




Bozeman Deaconess Hospital has started a 15 million dollar addition that will better address the needs of Bozeman residents while also preparing the next generation of doctors for the area.

The hospital broke ground two weeks ago and it plans on the building being 5 stories high and 88,508 square feet. The basic shell of the building should be ready by December of 2015 and then its interior should finish within the following six months. The hospital may not have to fit the entire bill assuming MSU can approve the leasing of a portion of the building for its growing medical programs.

Montana State University is awaiting approval to lease space in the new addition for its growing WWAMI doctor-training program. Currently, they are awaiting approval from the Board of Regents to make sure they have adequate funds to lease the space.

MSU’s WWAMI program gives prospective medical students a chance to live and breath the medical world from a variety of perspectives. In their first year, MSU students would study at the school, they would attend the University of Washington in their second year, and then go to clinical training sites for their 3rd and 4th years. MSU hopes that Bozeman Deaconess can become one of these clinical training sites in the future. The University of Washington has given their approval for Bozeman Deaconess to become a clinical training site.

Leasing space from Bozeman Deaconess will help better involve practicing doctors in the training of medical students. 1 out of 7 doctors can thank the WWAMI program for allowing them to practice in the state of Montana and surely would be willing to pay the help forward to future doctors. MSU would lease the 12,000 square feet of space for $16 a foot, or $192,000 a year.

MSU continues to build its academic reputation in a variety of different subjects while growing its student population. MSU's effect on Bozeman real estate shouldn't be underestimated. Renters and investors continue to see the effects of MSU. As the medical school in MSU grows, so will MSU’s reputation. MSU will hope to continue to attract the nation’s best and brightest with their continued academic focus. Having more doctors coming to Bozeman can only be good news and should continue to attract out of towners looking to move, while calming their concerns for medical care in a rural area like Montana.



Belgrade Raising Standards for City Streets

by Tim Hart


The Belgrade City Council voted on and approved a resolution to raise the benchmark for city streets, improving the function of future roads in a growing town. From now on, any newly constructed or reconstructed roads will need more designations for pedestrians and bikers, while also adding more curbs, gutters and sidewalks. Any minor construction, such as chip sealing, will not need to meet the new requirements.

The official resolution does not designate specific numbers that need to be met i.e. number of gutters per block, but instead states that the necessary features need to be addressed by the city before approval. The city will review building proposals on a project by project basis to best determine the proper amenities construction teams would need to add. The city needs to find the best type of road, given each unique situation and the resolution helps them make the right road the first time.

For those living in Belgrade, the resolution makes sure that their tax dollars are not being wasted on roads that need to be widened, fixed, improved etc. just a few years down the line.



Million Dollar Home Sales Increasing

by Tim Hart

Over the 2014 year in the United States, the number of 1 million dollar plus home sales rose by 8 percent. Million dollar and up homes have seen a much faster recovery than any other price point. In fact, sales for million dollar and up homes are now almost comparable to prices seen during the housing peak in 2007.

Housing analysts believe one reason why the surge has occurred has been the increase in jumbo loans being given to high priced buyers. A jumbo loan is a loan that exceeds $417,000, or in very high priced areas, $625,000. Total dollar volume for jumbo lending has grown to 20% of the total of all home loans. Jumbo loaning hasn’t been this popular since 2002.

In general, most of these million dollar homes are often sold in very small geographical areas. In many cases, the location actually creates the million dollar home. For example, the coast of Washington state has many million dollar plus homes, but it is on the waterfront, in the heart of Seattle, where even the most humble of homes can rise above a million. Big Sky, in a way, follows a similar pattern but is not at such high volumes.

Rising sales and rising prices at any price level is good news. Hopefully, the rise in million dollar home sales is a preview for what may be coming at lower price points.




Bozeman Public Schools Hit New Highs in Enrollment

by Tim Hart

The Bozeman School District has set a new enrollment record of 6,294 students showing the continued growth of Bozeman and its attraction to parents. The record actually fell 51 students short of projected numbers but still had 108 more students than any other year.

Increasing enrollment numbers in both Bozeman elementary and middle schools have driven the overall enrollment numbers to their heights. This year, 2,946 children enrolled in Kindergarten through 5th grade. 1,375 students enrolled in grades six through 8. Both records are all time highs.

Bozeman now has more than 500 kindergarteners enrolled in the district. The two new elementary schools that have been built in the last few years have helped alleviate the growing numbers, but the city may now have to focus on its Middle Schools.

The highschool enrolled 1,973 students this year, only ten shy of the record set in 2005.

The rising enrollment numbers correlate well with the growth of Bozeman. Many out of town buyers find Bozeman because they started their housing search by looking for high performing schools. So long as the schools maintain their high quality, it can only be expected that more and more parents will be attracted to Bozeman.



Renters Continue to Face Affordability Issues

by Tim Hart

Across the US, rent prices continue to rise. As demand for rental space rises, renters are finding themselves getting priced out of their markets. Bozeman has already seen its rental market all but disappear from the influx of MSU students, but as rent rates continue to rise and mortgage rates continue to fall, more and more people are finding themselves on the buy side of the “rent vs. buy” argument.

In the US, rental rates have risen by 6 percent over one year. In major metropolitan areas like San Francisco, Boston and Chicago, tenants are paying far more than 30 percent of their wages to rent. Many property management companies in the Bozeman area limit their tenants to have their rent be 30% of their wages and will almost never accept anybody going higher. However, when demand is high, its not hard to replace tenants, and many landlords are more than willing take on the risk of a renter splurging on their home choice.

In booming college towns, this trend is exasperated because of the high influx of students.  Having a lease expire just as college students return to school provides plenty of opportunity to update and raise lease rates, especially in the frantic summer months when thousands of students are looking for housing at once.

From a landlord’s perspective, the market lends itself toward investment purchases, with consistent renters and rising prices. But from the renter’s perspective, if they are anywhere near to buying, now may be the time to take the next step towards home ownership. By buying now, renters can get out from under the worry of being priced out of their market. Maybe 10 or 20 years down the line, they can rent the property out for prices they would have still been paying if they had rented. Either way, anyone considering buying a home as an alternative to rent, now may be the time to reevaluate finances and decide if the plunge may be worth it.



7.4 Million Owners Could Benefit from Refinancing

by Tim Hart

As the interest rate has dropped for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage in the last few months, a large amount of homeowners have missed opportunities to refinance, losing them big savings on their purchased real estate. According to Black Knight Financial Services, approximately 6 million borrowers met broad-based refinancibility criteria. Black Knight chose their criteria based on the good loan to value ratio, good credit, non-delinquent loan status, and the current interest rates being given to current mortgage payers. However, as rates have continued to drop, the number of people who would benefit from refinancing increased to 7.4 million. Black Knight believes that even this estimate is conservative and the true figure could even be 1.7 million borrowers higher.

In another study done by the National Buereau of Economic Research, up to 20 percent of Americans failed to refinance loans that would have saved them $45,000 over their entire loan’s lifetime. Now interest rates have fallen since that study took place, possibly raising the potential savings even higher.

Homeowner equity has continued to improve across the states. For 28 months in a row, the value of residential real estate has increased, helping lower borrowers with negative equity to below 8 percent. That number has not been that low since 2007. Black Knight had that number at 33% in 2011.

With these conditions in mind, now may be a great opportunity to refinance a loan and take advantage of these low interest rates.


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 286

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