Real Estate Information Archive


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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.



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.



College Towns See Highest Growth in Housing Market

by Tim Hart

College and University towns have outpaced non-university towns in their housing market growth. Cities and towns with a heavy student influx have, in general, outperformed the national averages for housing price trends, according to Clear Capital’s Home Data Index Market Report.

The report sampled 10 metro areas that have a large student presence and found that their average housing price has grown by 32% since 2004. College towns provide a consistent yearly influx of new renters, looking for their home for the year, making these homes ideal for property investors. Not only can they make money on the rent each month, when they decide to sell, a consistent buyer’s market will help them turn a profit. Once these students graduate, they often want to stay in the town they went to school. Each graduating class leaves a large market of potential homebuyers, helping drive home prices higher.

In Ithaca, NY, home to Cornell and Ithaca College, home prices have risen by 51% since 2004. Boulder Colorado, home of UC Boulder have seen their prices rise by 26%. In Cambridge, home of Harvard, housing prices have gone up 39% and that zip code has outperformed the rest of the surrounding Boston metro area by 36 percent.

Although, many in the housing industry can thank college students for improving the market, the students themselves are finding it harder to transition into a first time homebuyers. Outstanding student loans make it very difficult to then be approved for a mortgage loan. How this market conflict will resolve itself in the future is yet to be seen.

For a town like Bozeman, Montana, a healthy growing town, with a University presence, this study can only bode well for property owners and investors. Although Bozeman is not as big as the towns surveyed, it fits the bill perfectly. Seeing how crazy rental demand got at the start of the semester, finding a tenant in Bozeman is not difficult. Anyone considering purchasing property near the University should consider the potential benefits of owning one of these homes.


Buyer Demand Increasing Based on Economic Growth

by Tim Hart

I read a good article by Jonathan Smoke about the strengthening economy. In it, he gives a lot of facts underscoring why buyer demand is increasing. Here were some interesting facts from his article:

Pending home sales grew in September and registered the first year-over-year gain since 2013.

Strength in the labor market has directly affected improvements in the housing industry. New jobless claims were below 300,000 this month. It sounded like a lot to me, but according to Smoke, the last month to average less than 300k jobless claims was June 2000. He also noted that continuing claims haven’t been as low as they were at the height of the housing boom.

The first estimate of the third quarer shows the GDP growing by 3.5%, with all sectors contributing to the growth.

Mortgage rates remain near their one-year lows.

Credit requirements are easing as more buyers become eligible for loans.

With all of these factors combined, Smoke paints a clear picture as to why buyer demand has continued to increase. Real estate buyers and sellers, particularly in a market like Bozeman, should take note of the changing conditions. Buyers may now be eligible when they weren’t before; and sellers may be able to find that buyer willing to go up a little in price.








This month, we will highlight single-family residence Quarter 3 sales in the Gallatin County. We will compare quarter 3 numbers from 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Here are a few stats for all of Gallatin County single-family residences:

  • Unit sales increased in Quarter 3 from 2012 to 2013 by 16.83% (346 sold in 2012, 416 sold in 2013)
  • Unit sales increased in Quarter 3 from 2013 to 2014 by 7.56% (416 sold in 2013, 450 sold in 2014)
  • Unit sales increased in Quarter 3 over the 2012 to 2014 span by 23.1%
  • Dollar volume increased in Quarter 3 from 2012 to 2013 by 23.09% ($115,083,995 in 2012, $141,655,926 in 2013)
  • Dollar volume increased in Quarter 3 from 2013 to 2014 by 30.1% ($141,644,926 in 2013, $185,465,117 in 2014)
  • Dollar volume increased in Quarter 3 over the 2012 to 2014 span by 38.0%
  • For all of 2014 through 9/30/2014
    • Sold volume at $429,274, 429 and 1056 units

Summary – Gallatin County and the Bozeman area continues to trend up in a key housing indicator – single-family homes for the last two years.   The Gallatin Valley is growing at a healthy pace.

New Solar Loan Pays off Debt with the Sun

by Tim Hart

Homeowners tired of paying high utility bills may have hope on the horizon for lower power costs. Solar city, a major solar provider in the United States, has implemented a new solar loan program, allowing its clients to pay off the cost of their solar equipment with the energy they produce from their home.

Yes, solar power has been around for a decently long period of time, so why is this system different from all the other models from other solar companies? Well, Solar City really hit the crux of the solar issue—its high upfront costs compared to traditional utilities. For a long period of time, homeowners needed to buy every piece of equipment, install and permit them. According to, a solar leasing company, an owner can expect to pay anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 for panels, $1,000 to $3,000 for an inverter, $800 to $2,000 for mounting hardware, $2,000 to $4,000 to install them, and around $2,500 dollars or more for additional fees and permits. If a homeowner wanted the highest quality panels, with all the bells and whistles, he/she may expect to pay up to $23,500 for their new solar system.

Of course, with those kind of costs, not many people would be “solar panel eligible.” In order to get more customers through the door, solar companies offered a solar loan program called a power purchase agreement. In this agreement, home owners are provided all the equipment necessary with no cost to them. In exchange, they pay the company money for the power produced from their panels, just like they would pay a standard power company. Because the power is coming from their own home, the rate is markedly lower than standard electricity rates. Unfortunately, anyone within this pay structure will never own the panels placed on their own homes and they will have to pay a solar company for the power their own home is producing.

But now, Solar City is offering a new loan program, that shifts ownership of the equipment over to the buyer, under a 30-year loan program.  A homeowner pays a fixed monthly rate (eerily similar to a 30-year fixed rate mortgage on a home, but a lot cheaper!) and that money pays off the remaining principal and 4.5% interest rate. After the loan is up, they now own the solar panels and have access to a free source of energy that can drastically lower their costs. Homes that produce extra solar power can even see lower rates if Solar City sells the excess power from their home to another.

More often than not, even while paying off the loan, homeowners will still pay less than they would in a power purchase agreement and one day, they will own the panels. Customers can also pay off a piece or all of the remaining balance on their panels to lower their monthly costs. Anyone hoping for loan approval will need a 680 credit score.

Solar city hopes to explode an already growing Solar market. Over the first half of 2014, 2,700 megawatts were produced from residential homes, compared to only 1,144 megawatts produced in the same period of 2013. States that haven’t offered any benefits for solar power have put roadblocks in the way for national solar expansion, but with Solar City’s new loan program they now may be competitive. In the first year, customers may see their utility costs rise, but once they can write off the 30% federal tax credit in the following years, solar usually becomes the cheaper option.

The new solar loan program does have one drawback, or at least something to note. Solar panels have yet to be tested over a 30 year period and by loan’s end they may not be productive anymore. Because nobody really has data on solar panels going thirty years back, it’s very hard to know the full life span of solar panels. In general, solar panels weaken as they age, so after thirty years, customers may have to cross their fingers that the panels they now “officially” own are operational. However, if the loan is less than what they would have paid in utilities anyways, concerns over panel functionality thirty years down the line may be a null point.

Any homeowner looking to lower their utility costs should keep their eyes and ears open for local solar options. Currently, solar city is only offering their loan program to states that already have an established solar clientele, but they plan on expanding into most of the United States eventually.


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