Real Estate Information Archive


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Creative Ideas Address Home Affordability In Montana

by Tim Hart

I read a great article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about how Whitehall, Montana has attacked their affordable housing situation and how Bozeman might be able to use some of these strategies locally. Whitehall is a small town about an hour away from Bozeman and a little outside of Butte. Whitehall has worked hard on creating a new affordable subdivision in town with homes that can be built for under $120,000.

These homes will be built in the new Mountain Horizon Subdivision in Whitehall. Habitat for Humanity is helping to develop the new subdivision. They along with builders and city officials have done an excellent job coordinating their efforts to keep home costs low.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the subdivision is using a home design that is 938 sq. ft with 2 bedrooms, but is under $120,000 to build. From the most recent quote by Bozeman based builders, its not possible to build a 1,200 square foot home in the city for less than 186K—and that number is before builder profit and real estate fees are added in.

Of course, comparing Whitehall to Bozeman is not necessarily an apples to apples conversation. Perhaps the biggest contributor to home affordability is the affordability of the lots below them. In Whitehall, it costs on average $25,000 for a finished, infrastructure equipped lot whereas Bozeman sees the average cost of a lot around $70,000. Bozeman has looked into trimming down on lot sizes to make their costs more effective.

However, there are some cool strategies being employed that might help lower costs in Bozeman, though certainly not to 120k per home. The first strategy used by developers in Whitehall required cooperation from Whitehall city officials. The subdivision was built outside of city limits because the land was far cheaper. However, once the land was purchased, it was incorporated into the city. That helped the developer’s buy cheap but still get access to the benefits of incorporation. For specific subdivisions on the outskirts of Bozeman, this could be a good solution to lower costs.

Second, the builders are using cheaper insulated materials to build their homes over traditional wood-framed construction. By using structurally insulated panels usually built from Styrofoam and placed between sheets of plywood, builders can lower their outgoing costs. Additionally, the insulation will help lower the future homebuyer’s utility costs, helping them save money after purchase.

Finally, the developer is also offering homebuyers the opportunity to work on their own home, with their labor removed from the costs.

All of these factors will help lower the overall costs of these homes. Bozeman can take a look at these strategies and decide whether to apply any of them moving forward. As Bozeman looks to address home affordability, creative ideas like these will help everyone involved keep home values at reasonable levels.



Source: Dietrich, Eric. “Whitehall Could Guide Bozeman Housing.” Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Sept. 3 2015.

Housing Market Performs Well by Freddie Mac’s Recent Standards

by Tim Hart

According to some new figures released by Freddie Mac, the United States Housing market now may be the strongest it has been in years. Judging by their Multi-Indicator Market Index, it’s hard to disagree. The MiMi, as its called, suggests that our housing market has improved by 35% in comparison to October of 2010. With other recent index’s showing improvement as well, home buyers and seller alike should be heartened.

The index measures the stability of the US’s housing market through a variety of figures: on-time mortgage payments, employment, debt-to-income ratios and home purchase applications. Currently, the housing market is considered to be in the stable range. Its current value sits at 80.3, far below its high of 121.7, but stability and consistency are far better news than the plummeting industry seen from 2008 to 2011.

Currently, 28 of 50 states, as well as Washington DC have values in the stable range. Montana is ranked the 3rd most stable state according to the MiMi.




Gallatin County Market Update - September 2015

by Tim Hart

This month, we will compare condo and townhome sales in all of the Gallatin County for 2013, 2014 and 2015 through the second quarter and compare those figures. Here are a few stats for Gallatin County condos and townhomes:

  • Total Quarter 1 and 2 sales increased by 27.46% from 2013 to 2014 (244 sold in 2013, 311 sold in 2014)
  • Total Quarter 1 and 2 sales increased by 6.75% from 2014 to 2015 (311 sold in 2014, 332 sold in 2015)
  • Between 2013 and 2015, sales increased by 36.07 percent.
  • Quarter 1 and 2 dollar volume increased by 55.84% from 2013 to 2014 ($56,339,593 volume in 2013, $87,800,977 volume in 2014)
  • Quarter 1 and 2 dollar volume increased by 0.43% from 2014 to 2015 ($87,800,977 volume in 2014, $88,180435 in 2015)
  • Between 2013 and 2015 dollar volume increased by 56.52 percent
  • Condos and townhomes stayed on the market 11.11% shorter in 2014 compared to 2013 (112.5 days on the market in 2013, 100 days on the market in 2014)
  • Condos and townhomes stayed on the market 21.00% shorter in 2015 compared to 2014 (100 days on the market in 2014, 79 days in 2015)
  • Between 2013 and 2015, average days on the market for condos and townhomes fell by 29.78 percent.

Summary – Through Quarters 1 and 2, condo and townhomes in the Gallatin County continue to see prices increase, though at a smaller rate, while staying on the market much shorter than in previous years. These figures suggest activity is high and the market remains healthy.

Refinancing Drives Mortgage Application Increase

by Tim Hart

Homeowner’s looked to take advantage of low mortgage rates in late August and their attempts to refinance their loan helped raise total mortgage applications by 3.6 percent. Mortgage applications were 18% over numbers seen from a year ago.

As rates have dropped, homeowners have tried to take advantage and lock in low interest rates. According to CNN, turbulence in China caused these lower rates, allowing US homeowners a great opportunity to refinance. Refinancers surged over the week of the 16th, having 7% more applications than the week before – a large shift for an entire country.

The more mortgage activity, the better off the United States Housing Market will be. Widening the market by adding both additional buyers and sellers will help make the market less volatile. Although homebuyer confidence has been fast improving, most of this recent surge was thanks to refinancers. Ideally, lenders will see a consistent growth rate in mortgage applications, with a good mix of both homeowners and homebuyers.





Real Estate Market Creeping Closer to Normal

by Tim Hart

Real estate markets across the country continued their slow climb back to normal market conditions. In early August, the National Association of Home Builders and First American Leading Markets Index (LMI) reported that most markets across the United States have been trending to normal. The LMI increased to a score of 0.92, suggesting the US is closing in on its goal for a normalized market.

The LMI measures the proximity of a certain market to its previous, normal economic and housing market outlook. When a housing market has hit “normal,” meaning it has fallen within numbers seen consistently in its past, the market will have a value of 1. At 0.92, the United States market overall has gotten closer to normalcy but still has some improvement remaining.

The LMI uses three components to measure their index.

First, they look at home prices for a certain market.  On a national average, home prices have improved the most, with a score of 1.29. Essentially, home prices are 29% more than they were when last normal. For big national averages, its important to remember that markets like San Francisco and New York City can do a lot to drive the overall average, but in this case the number really reflects the overall improvement of the nation. In this case, 95% of markets had an index over 1 for housing price normalization.

Second, they look at employment figures to determine the employment market health of an area. The US overall averaged an employment score of 0.96, showing that the job market has nearly made a complete recovery. 65 markets across the US have met or passed their last “normal” score and are now scoring above 1.0 in employment numbers.

Finally, the index looks at single housing starts across the nation to gauge the construction industry’s return to normalcy. Currently, single-family starts are still behind, with an average score of 0.49—suggesting builders are still waiting for more buyers to jump into the market. However, single-family starts saw a 13% increase in June and in that month topped the January 2008 annualized rate for single family starts. Although the nation would like to see more building, the marked improvement over this summer has been very encouraging. Multi-family starts have also been very healthy, increasing 28.6% in June—numbers that this index do not take into account.

Fifty four percent of metro areas saw their scores increase from the first to the second quarter of 2015. Meanwhile 66% of all markets have seen improvement from 2014 to 2015.

The three figures mentioned obviously do not account for all the subtleties and distinctions of individual markets, but they do give a good sense that the United States Housing Market has been and should continue to improve moving forward.




Tourist Spending in Montana Close to $4 Billion

by Tim Hart

According to a study released by the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, tourists visiting Montana spent nearly 4 billion dollars in 2014. The report showed that 10.89 million visitors came to Montana to enjoy the many attractions the state showcases.

For Gallatin County, tourists spent 662 million in Gallatin County, directly leading to 6,740 jobs. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, more than 2,800 jobs were also indirectly supported in the county, leading to an additional $347 million in spending in the state.

Currently, Gallatin County is leading and among the leaders in population growth and economic growth. Some experts have attributed the growth to the fact that the Gallatin County has some of the highest percentage of accessible public land in the state. Naturally, there are a wide variety of reasons for the County’s positive economic outlook, but having natural attractions will help bring in an additional inflow of money. Tourism, of course, directly reflects out-of-state visitors desire to also share, see and enjoy these areas of Montana. In 2014, state park attendance and Yellowstone park visitors saw increases in tourism numbers and spending. Bozeman has also become a ski hub for many skiers in the United States and abroad.

The county's access to an international airport also helps make visiting the Gallatin County a little easier than other places and Bozeman has done a good job adding additional hotels for its growing industry.

Tourists to the Gallatin County spent nearly double that of visitors to Missoula County. Flathead County was the only county to beat the Gallatin County in tourism spending. $668 million was spent and it helped support 6,800 jobs.

As Bozeman residents have probably deduced and as the Chronicle noted, the tourism industry can generate long-term residents. According to a report by University of Montanan’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, 140,000 people—more than 1/10 of the total population—moved to state after vacationing here or working a seasonal job. So long as the Gallatin County continues to attract new, permanent residents, various markets will continue to see improvement – real estate among them.





Prairie School Architecture

by Tim Hart

Prairie School Architecture became popular in the late 19th and early 20th Century. A prairie school home was designed to evoke the feelings of a flat prairie. The architectural style was an attempt to differentiate North American style from the European styles already present throughout the United States. Architects like Frank Lloyd Wright helped promote this new “organic architecture,” and prairie school homes are often integrated into the landscapes that surround them.

Long, horizontal lines define the prairie home. These homes have long, flat roofs and broad overhangs and eaves. Windows are often grouped into horizontal bands. Some prairie homes almost appear like an overlay of blocks, put on top of each other in an almost haphazard form.


Take another lesson here:






French Eclectic

Spanish Mission Revival

Cape Cod


Second Empire


Thanks to all of our Clients!

by Tim Hart


"In a business usually populated by pretenders and part-timers, Tim Hart is a professionals' professional. 

With intimate knowledge of both residential and commercial markets, Tim's strategic differentiator is service.  From taking the time to understand our needs (location for schools, type of neighborhood, architectural style), through the negotiation of price and finally the details of the close, Tim not only advised us, but led the process--and always with patience and understanding. 

Best of all, as clients moving from out of state, Tim helped us ensure a smooth transition, with advice on everything from how to handle city utilities, where to find yard services and a local contractor, and even recommendations for restaurants.  We endorse Tim without hesitation, and will use him again for our future Gallatin Valley real estate transactions!" ~Andy and Mary Harris

All Cash Transactions Down as Home Values Rise

by Tim Hart

Transactions consisting of only cash have now hit their lowest share since 2009. In June 2015, all cash sales accounted for 22% of all existing home sale transactions. In June of 2014, all cash sales were at 32 percent. Existing home sales continue to rise so many buyers have turned to financing their home because their overall confidence in the housing market has improved.

In March, all cash transactions fell by 33% in comparison to March 2014 numbers, suggesting that cash sales have been going down pretty consistently for the past year. According to CoreLogic, all cash sales peaked in 2011 at 46.5% of all home sales in the United States. As the economy and home values have improved, this number has fallen consistently.

In general, individual investors account for a majority of cash sales. As home values have risen over the past years, individual investors will not have as much of a guarantee of return on investment. Investment groups have picked up the slack in some sense but as values rise, all cash transactions will continue to go down. In June, individual investors accounted for 12% of all cash transactions, with other groups, companies or firms accounting for the other 10 percent.

Having less cash transactions helps homebuyers with third party financing better compete against other buyers for a listed home. Due to the fact that all cash transactions are very clean, neat and quick, its hard for any seller to choose financing over all cash offers. Having less all cash offers floating around the market will help other home buyers get the home they want at the price they want.




Mortgage Rates Still Below 4%

by Tim Hart

After a volatile July, loan interest rates have stayed below 4% for the 5th consecutive week. This week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.93%, just a tick below last week’s 3.94% average. Movement has been relatively small over this time period, but buyers will want to stay in the loop should rates trend upwards again.

Housing markets across the US have responded well to the low rates as home buyers have tried to lock down favorable rates while many homeowners have tried to refinance. All year, lenders have tried to keep rates low to keep attracting prospective buyers but they have been steadily creeping from the low 3’s to high 3’s(see January, March and April numbers here).

Fifteen-year mortgage rates averaged 3.15% this week—down from 3.17% last week.



Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 435