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Affordable Housing Development for Livingston in the Works

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

With 13.2% of Livingston’s total population (last estimated in 2016 at 7,401) in poverty, the addition of an affordable housing development would greatly benefit citizens who are currently working and earning lower wages.

How is This Problem Being Addressed?

Over the next 10 years, the Montana Board of Housing has assigned $27 million in credits to help fund affordable housing projects not only in Livingston, but in Billings, Butte, Kalispell and Lewistown as well. Homeword, Inc., a Missoula-based, non-profit affordable housing developer, has been awarded $5.8 million in tax credits to transform the old Livingston Memorial Hospital building into 34 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The new apartment complex, Bluebunch Flats, is named after Montana’s official state grass, Bluebunch Wheatgrass. In keeping with Homeword’s mission of sustainability, hospital rooms in the existing Memorial Hospital building will be renovated and converted into individual apartments.

Units will available to residents who make between 40% and 60% of the area median income. As of last year, median household income for Livingston was $40,358, while per capital income was just shy of $27,000. Although rent prices are not yet set in stone, they will likely range from $425 for a studio to $800 for a two-bedroom. Construction is set to begin in the summer of 2018, with a projected completion date of mid-2019.

Other Affordable Housing Projects Around Montana:

  • Billings: Heights Senior Apartments— 38-unit project for senior citizens
  • Butte: Copper Ridge Apartments— 32-unit project for families
  • Kalispell: Courtyard Apartments— 32-unit acquisition rehabilitation project for families
  • Lewistown: Meadows Senior Apartments— 35-unit acquisition rehabilitation project for senior citizens

Related Articles: 

Housing Market Trends Amongst Generation Y

Home Prices and Growth: What's Going On?

Belgrade Expands and Prepares for Future Growth

Some Big Names You Probably Didn’t Know Live In Montana

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Apparently, Montana is the desired place to be among the rich and famous. There are quite a few American icons living among us. So who are these people, and where are they?

 

Michael Keaton lives somewhere in the Big Timber area near Livingston, but his exact location is unknown. Helena’s Independent Record article from October 1986, reported that he owns a 565-acre ranch south of Big Timber. You might find him fishing with Tom Brokaw and relaxing on the great rivers of Montana. 

 

Tom Brokaw, is a former broadcaster for an Omaha radio station, KMTV, and better known as the NBC’s anchor from 1982 to 2004. He now works as a Special Correspondent for NBC News, as well as making documentaries for other media outlets. Mr. Brokaw found his interest in Montana when he came to shoot a documentary and speak for The Montana Bar Association in the 1980s. The only fee he charged for speaking was to be dropped off “at a trailhead and picked up five days later.” After being brought back a second time a few years later for more work, he didn’t want to leave, leading to his purchase of West Boulder Ranch near Livingston. He was so committed to stay that he made the journey to and from New York for weeks at a time, which turned into months as the years rolled on.

 

Dennis Quaid was a famous movie star who came about in the 1980s, starring in a variety of drama and comedy movies. Some movies he plays in that you might recall are The Rookie, The Day After Tomorrow, The Parent Trap, and a number of other box office hits. In the late-80s, Mr. Quaid bought a ranch near Livingston that was jointly owned by the actor Warren Oats and director Sam Peckinpah. His home was unique in that it had hardwood floors recovered from the Great Fire of Chicago of 1871. Sadly, he sold this beautiful $14 million estate in 2011.

 

Huey Lewis, a popular lead singer of Huey Lewis and the News from the 1980s, found his way to Montana in 1987. He bought a 500-acre ranch outside of Stevensville, where he lives comfortably today. Mr. Lewis has been known to contribute to the community in a variety of ways, one being his funding of the Missoula Jazz band. You’d also find him, as well as with many others on this list, fly-fishing along Big Sky’s rivers and streams.

 

You know David Letterman as a famous talk show host, but what you probably didn’t know that he is another fellow Montana lover. He owns a huge 2700-acre ranch located 35 miles outside of Choteau, Montana, neighboring Glacier National Park. He also owns a ranch in Ruby Valley, which is closer to the southwest corner of the state. Although he spends most of his time in Salem, New York, he shows interest in settling down in his Montana home as a permanent residence when he retires. 

 

Another well-known name among Montana residences, but is sadly no longer with us, was Chet Huntley, the founder of what is now the largest ski resort in the nation, Big Sky Resort. Born on December 10, 1911, Chet Huntley passed several decades ago. He will be remembered as he contributed to a large part of the lives of many winter enthusiasts who come to enjoy the many slopes of Big Sky Resort. Chet Huntley attended the local college at Montana State University, from which he transferred to University of Washington and graduated in 1934 with a degree in both speech and drama. He then began his career at a Seattle radio station, moved around as he climbed the ladder, and then found his way to NBC news in 1955. With his love for skiing, he returned to Montana in summer of 1970. He then began work on the project skiers and snowboarders came to appreciate him for, the opening of Big Sky Resort. Sadly, Mr. Huntley wasn’t able to stick around to see the magnificent work he built. He passed away at 62 in March 1974, three days before the grand opening.

 

A list of other names can be found in the private community of the prestigious Yellowstone Club, tucked away in the mountains of Big Sky, Montana. This club was reported to have about 250 members, each of which are required to pay a minimum of $250,000 to join, in addition to the price of their $5 million to $25 million mountainside home. Notable members include a number of American celebrities & icons such as Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Warren Miller, Phil Mickelson, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Dan Quayle, Greg LeMond, Jack Kemp, Tom Brady, Jeff Bridges, and of course, Bill Gates. 

 

Apparently, Montana is the place to be. Justin Timberlake and his wife chose to move to a quiet place in Big Sky where they can raise their child away from the busy, big city life. There are a number of other unaccounted celebrities that live in and appreciate the beauty of Montana. When such icons as these all move to the same area, you know it must be a great location!

 

Get an Energy Audit to Improve Home Efficiency

by Tim Hart

I read a great article by Troy Carter of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, outlining the importance of getting an Energy Audit to improve home efficiency. In his article, he interviewed local experts, getting their advice on how to make homes more efficient while keeping the investment worthwhile.

Obviously, the easiest, cheapest and most efficient way to save money over the winter is to change your lifestyle. Wearing sweaters and turning down thermostats will do the most to keep payments low while using less energy.

All homes are different and therefore need to be evaluated on an individual basis to determine how they might be made more efficient. In a recent study, the University of Chicago suggested that most weatherization upgrades do little to improve returns on the investment.

However, it may be the case that these homes did not correctly diagnose how to best upgrade their home, instead spending on more expensive, ineffective upgrades. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 90% of detached, single-family homes are under insulated. If all homes had proper insulation, electricity use would decrease by 5% and natural gas use would decrease by 10 percent.

But how can homeowners better diagnose issues with their home? An energy efficiency audit. Auditors can use little tricks to find leaks and issues within the home.

One local energy auditor suggested that homes built pre-1960’s consider air sealing. Many older homes do not have the air and water barriers that are required today (Tyvek home wrap). These older homes oftentimes do not have insulation either. Current approved insulation has an R value of 3 per inch (learn more about R values here) so older insulation may simply be out of date.

For middle age homes, auditors would more than likely perform a depressurization. That process simulates 20 mph winds on all sides of the home, allowing experts to diagnose where potential leaks might be coming from.

With new construction, ideally there should not be much to do, but mistakes are made on all homes, and an energy audit might help a new construction owner diagnose a potential mistake.

Improving home efficiency will at the very least help protect the earth and environment even more. Potential returns on investment, for many, would be an added bonus.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/economy/winter-is-coming-and-so-are-heating-bills/article_5e016e89-9108-545b-b2d2-84d5dbd778c3.html

 

Rural Mortgages Get Boost from CFPB

by Tim Hart

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with changes to some current rules, will help buyers in rural areas get financed for home purchases. The CFPB made changes to its rules to increase the number of financial institutions that would be eligible to offer loans in rural areas. To do this, they broadened the definitions for lending as well as expanding the definition of a rural area.

The CFPB has expanded the definition of small creditor, raising the definition from 500 first-lien mortgage loans to 2,000, freeing up additional lenders to make rural loans.

They also expanded the definition of a rural area. They will now include all census blocks that are not in an urban area, whereas before, they had other credentials needed to classify a property as rural.

By broadening both definitions, more lenders will be able to loan and more rural buyers will qualify for financing.  Ideally, this will help entice more buyers into the housing market, further strengthening it as it recovers from the recession.

 

Source: http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2015/09/24/cfpb-makes-rural-mortgages-easier-obtain

 

Montana to Improve Internet Speeds in Schools

by Tim Hart

Thanks to a partnership by the state government and an internet based non-profit organization, Montana Schools can look forward to having much faster internet in future years.

Montana will partner with Education Super Highway to help get state schools federal assistance and upgrade their broadband infrastructure. Currently, as many as 160 K-12 schools across Montana lack fiber optic cables that are needed for high speed internet connections. Rural schools struggle in particular due to their isolation. Education Super Highway specializes in gaining federal grants to help schools lay fiber optic wires or fund broadband upgrades. However, schools still need to pay for 10% of their costs. Having the state government jump on board will help pay for those additional costs to schools in need.

Bozeman schools obviously have internet access. However the size of some schools, coupled with their network capabilities often leads them to having slower than ideal internet. By partnering with Education Super Highway, even well established schools like Bozeman High School will have the opportunity to improve their internet infrastructure. The Bozeman School District does a great job keeping up with technology--last year they purchased Chromebooks for use by students--and this new project will only improve technology access in Bozeman schools. The City of Bozeman has also worked hard to install fiber optic cables around town--something that will also benefit nearby schools who can connect into that infrastructure.

Schools will not know how much the internet upgrades might cost until they have been reviewed on an individual basis. Having improved internet across the state and specifically in Gallatin County schools will continue to attract young families to the area. Any parent wants to give their child the best education possible. Having access to a tool like the internet is a must have in this modern age—having its capabilities fully optimized can’t hurt either!

 

Source: http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/Bozeman-schools-look-forward-to-improved-internet-access/35293234

http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/Broadband-group-to-test-school-Internet-speed-plan-upgrades/35303278

 

 

Yellowstone Park on Pace to Break Visitor Record

by Tim Hart

After 8 months, Yellowstone National Park is on track to break the most visitors it has had in its recorded history. After the high season starts to wrap up in late August to early September, park officials generally have a good idea of how well the year has gone and will go—so far, Yellowstone continues to trend more visitors each and every year, with old highs quickly becoming the new baselines. 

After August, the park had a total of 3.1 million visitors. That number is 15% higher than the total seen after 8 months in 2014. In 2014 through August, Yellostone had 2.7 million visitors and in 2013 they had 2.3 million visitors. Its pretty clear the park continues to attract more visitors each and every year.

In August alone, 854,000 people visited Yellowstone –10 percent more than those who visited in August 2014. Each of Yellowstone’s five entrances also saw higher vehicle traffic.

From a real estate perspective, more visitors will ultimately lead to more permanent residents. As noted in a previous tourism article, 1/10 of current residents were drawn here either through a seasonal, outdoor job or simply by visiting the local tourist attractions. Gallatin County’s economic growth and population growth both seem to have been positively affected by the amount of accessible public land nearby.

As Yellowstone tourism numbers continue to increase, it would not be a surprise to see the nearby towns’ populations and development follow suit.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/ap_news/montana/yellowstone-surpasses-million-visitors-this-year/article_39922ce2-4e0e-590f-a214-27714459fccc.html

 

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.

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.

 

Source: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/economy/tourists-increase-spending-in-montana-to-almost-billion/article_80182926-fbba-5180-92c4-e339ee5d2cf3.html

 

 

Rental Market Hit New Highs in June

by Tim Hart

Rental prices continue to grow in the United States Housing Market making many wonder when and where the tipping point may come. The national effective growth rate for rental values went up by 5.1% in June to a 47 month high. Effective rent growths have also been at 5% for 5 consecutive months, a streak not seen since April 2009.

Tight occupancy has pushed rent even higher as the intense competition has allowed landlords to consistently raise rates while still finding tenants. The US rental occupancy rate now sits at 95.3 percent. Although renters have struggled to keep up with the recent price growth, they’ve still made the payments work—but for how long renters can afford these high rates is to be seen.

The US Housing market may be catching up from the housing recession, when a very small number of apartments were made. Now, renters can only hope the recent economic growth will help builders increase home inventory and drive landlord competition to lower prices. Even despite low mortgage rates, the rising home values have kept many renters away from buying a home. Oddly, buying has been cheaper than renting in 66% of the national housing market, yet renters continue to pay steep prices for a place to stay.

In Bozeman, the local real estate market has acted as a sort of microchasm for trends seen in the US housing market. Bozeman continues to try to add additional inventory to keep rent prices low and have also looked into lowering lot sizes to increase the number homes they can build on a space of land.

 

Source: http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2015/07/27/booming-rental-market-sets-new-records

 

For those still wondering if buyer confidence has returned to the United States Housing Market, they will be relieved when they read the new survey for released by Bankrate. According to their survey, real estate now ranks as the number one investment choice for Americans.

The company asked people how they would choose to invest their money if they had extra cash lying around. Twenty seven percent of Americans chose some form of property investment – the highest ranked answer of all other options. With signs of a normalizing real estate market, buyers are feeling confident that once again, real estate will turn in some high returns.

Buyer confidence has been climbing steadily in the last years. However, most articles discussing buyer confidence compared real estate confidence to previous years. This survey shows that confidence in real estate has now reached a point that it is also starting to compete (and beat!) other industries.

CDs and other cash investments, last year’s top answer, came in second at 23 percent. Seventeen percent of Americans would put their money in the stock market, 14% chose gold and other precious metals, and 5% chose investing in the bond market.

Coupled with low mortgage rates, high rental rates and low vacancy rates, its easy to see why an investor can see a lot of potential in real estate based investments.

Americans living in the West (35%) and urban (31%) areas showed the highest preference towards making a real estate based investment.

The South preferred real estate and cash investments. The Midwest preferred cash and stocks over real estate.

 

Source: http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2015/07/24/real-estate-ranks-tops-among-investments

 

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