Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 267

Bozeman Fiber Optic Network Receives Big Boost

by Tim Hart

Bozeman’s attempt to lay fiber optic wire in town to improve internet prices, speeds and reliability for local business received a big boost from eight local banks recently. Bozeman Fiber Inc, the non-profit put in charge of the fiber optic project by the City of Bozeman, announced it has successfully negotiated 3.85 million in private financing.

The non-profit intends to develop an open-access network for private internet providers in Bozeman. They were put in charge of the project after the City of Bozeman moved away from earlier suggestions that would make the new cable public. Under the current plan, the project will provide the infrastructure and private internet providers can lease it at a certain price. Ideally, the project would help foster more competition as it would allow smaller companies to compete with larger national providers.

The non-profit believe they will start work in Spring 2016. Bozeman continues to invest in technology to stay ahead of the curve. Staying competitive in the tech world will help to continue driving more businesses and economic prosperity to Bozeman.




Bozeman Montana Schools Look to Expand

by Tim Hart

On November 3rd, voters will decide whether to expand the Sacajawea Middle School and Hawthorne Elementary School. School officials believe that with Bozeman’s growth over the past years, now is the time to expand these schools to better address the growing Bozeman population.

School officials will put a proposal to expand the Sacajawea Middle School before voters, costing 16 million dollars. They had considered building a new school, but the costs could have been nearly double.

The middle school has struggled with space issues. The school uses one gym for 700 students, its orchestra and band rooms are a little small and additional classrooms are needed as well. With the 16 million dollar bond, the school would build a new 8th grade wing, add classrooms to the 6th and 7th grade wings, add half a gym w/ additional health enhancement classrooms and add additional locker space.

The bond would cost a homeowner with a $240,000 property an additional $34.57 a year.

Bozeman officials will also put a proposal before voters to expand Hawthorne Elementary School. Hawthorn currently has two portable classrooms and a portable music room that would be replaced with a new, two-story wing.

The project is expected to cost 5.5 million, but school officials will use a Tax Increment Finance District to cover the debt—so ideally this project will not cost tax payers additional money. It would have cost a tax payer with a $240,000 property approximately $13.65 a year.

The School District has already moved ahead with selecting architects for the project. They want to get the ball rolling so they can be ready if the proposal passes. They are in negotiations with A&E Architects for the Sacajawea Middle School expansion (they helped build the new Chief Joseph Middle School) and Comma-Q Architecture for the work on Hawthorne.

Bozeman Schools have also started looking into the construction of a second high school, which is farther down the pipeline, but will be a needed project in the future





Montana’s Smartest Highschoolers Choose MSU, Again

by Tim Hart

Just like last year and the year before, the smartest Montana High Schoolers are choosing Montana State University Bozeman.

Montana awarded 204 scholarships to the state school of each high schooler’s choice. 134 chose Montana State, representing two thirds of those who accepted. 37% of those students will be entering engineering.

In order to qualify, residents must have a 3.4 grade point average. After that, the state ranks them by their school ranking and ACT scores to differentiate the top students.

Having top students continue to choose MSU is great news for the school as well as Bozeman. Attracting the best talent will help MSU grow its own reputation, attracting more students, more jobs and more money to the area. As students graduate, they might also choose to stay in Bozeman, giving boosts to the labor and housing markets respectively.





How Lasers Affect Real Estate

by Tim Hart

This month, I wanted to highlight an investment Bozeman made in 1993 that now seems to have impacted Bozeman’s economic outlook for the better. We never know where our hard work might pay off down the line and how it might change Bozeman’s future.

I read a great article this month by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about the growth of Optics Technology in Bozeman. The optics industry works with lasers, high tech cameras and other similar technologies to create better products, medicines etc.  In 1993, the first real investment into Optics Technology in Bozeman was made. Local companies, the State of Montana, MSU, and the National Science Foundation teamed up to raise 3 million in optics research in Bozeman. By 1995, MSU had its own Optics Technology Center.

Since then, MSU has had 15 spinoff companies come directly from their programs, whether through new technologies invented on campus or by students who trained at the University and began their own company. According to the Bozeman Chronicle, there are now 30 optics companies in Bozeman, employing some 500 people most of whom earn higher than Bozeman’s average wage. Without the investment made in 1993, it is hard to say whether any of the growth of Optics Technology would have been possible. It is much easier to say that the growth of these local companies have provided an economic boost to Bozeman.

But the best news continues to be that Bozeman has worked hard to reinvest back into the sciences and that similar breakthroughs might be possible in Bozeman’s future.

Both the state government and the National Science Foundation again have offered major grants to MSU for continued scientific development in the area.

The National Science Foundation awarded a 3 million dollar grant to expand the nanotechnology center at MSU. The grant will give MSU the ability to put all of their associated labs in one location. Currently MSU has 5 nanotechnology labs. The money will be distributed over 5 years will also provide funds to upgrade and buy new equipment.

On top of this, MSU received 4.6 million in grants from the State of Montana. In total, MSU scientists have won 8.9 million of the 12.9 million that has been offered this year, with only 2 million dollars left outstanding. MSU worked very hard to achieve the grants they received, putting in 150 of the 200 proposals reviewed by the state. The 4.6 million in grants will go to infectious disease research in both humans and ranch animals, mental health research, energy research and research to better recover metals from wastewater.

Continuing to win grants like these and continuing to pursue them with the veracity seen in 2015 will help keep Bozeman on the forefronts of technological advances. It seems pretty apparent that research like this can drive future economic prosperity. Economic prosperity will help drive more people to Bozeman. So although lasers and nanotechnology feel very far from real estate, they might be closer together than people might initially think.








Bozeman Montana Area Housing Market Update - October 2015

by Tim Hart

This month, we will compare single-family home sales in the Bozeman area for the first three quarters of 2015. Third Quarter sales are through August 2015 and have been projected for the month of September. Here are a few stats for Bozeman area single-family residences:

  • From Quarter 1 to Quarter 2, total home sales increased by 67.82% (174 sold in Quarter 1, 292 sold in Quarter 2)
  • From Quarter 2 to Quarter 3, total home sales are projected to increase by 13.01% (292 sold in Quarter 2, 220 through August, projected to 330)
  • From Quarter 1 to Quarter 3, total home sales are projected to increase by 89.66%
  • From Quarter 1 to Quarter 2, dollar volume increased by 87.20% ($71,215,358 in Quarter 1, $133,314,567 in Quarter 2)
  • From Quarter 2 to Quarter 3, dollar volume is projected to increase by 11.63% ($133,314,567 in Quarter 2, $99,209,700 through August, projected to $148,814,550)
  • From Quarter 1 to Quarter 3, dollar volume is projected to increase by 108.96%
  • From Quarter 1 to Quarter 2, homes spent 5.26% longer time on the market (95 DOM in Quarter 1, 100 DOM in Quarter 2)
  • From Quarter 2 to Quarter 3, homes spent 41.00% shorter time on the market (100 DOM in Quarter 2, 59 DOM through August in Quarter 3)
  • From Quarter 1 to Quarter 3 homes spent 33.89% shorter time on the market.

Summary – Sales and dollar volume continue to grow, suggesting the housing market is deepening while still allowing home values to rise. Single-family residences have been going quick in the third quarter of 2015, suggesting more buyers are jumping into the market. Overall, the market appears to be healthy and growing.


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.




Off Leash Dog Park in Bozeman Progressing

by Tim Hart

Bozeman’s new off leash dog park has been progressing well and should be have a full, walkable loop by the start of winter. The loop should be completed by Halloween. As Bozeman’s west side continues to grow, adding another dog park will help keep Bozeman dogs happy and healthy.

Phase 1 of the park will consist of 13 acres. Run Dog Run, the non-proift heading the project broke ground in May and have been working on fundraising for the park since then. So far they have raised $30,000 for the park and received matching funds from the Land and Water Conservation fund.

The park will include trails, water and varied terrain. Ponds are slowly filling as workers excavated areas around the park. Next, workers will continue their work on the trail, replanting vegetation and fencing the park (it is off leash after all!).

Future plans include adding more intricate trails and adding a diving dock on one of the ponds.

With dog-related improvements throughout Bozeman over the past year, the city and county have really made a true effort to turn Bozeman into doggy paradise. Run Dog Run has helped start 4 off leash dog parks in Bozeman, including the recent 2-acre off-leash park at Rocky Creek Farm. The Gallatin Valley Land Trust also worked on improving and expanding Snowfill, the off-leash dog park north of town.




Element Hotel Takes on Growing Bozeman Tourism

by Tim Hart

With tourism spending in Montana close to $4 billion, with 662 million of those dollars being spent in the Gallatin County, its no wonder Bozeman has looked to take advantage of growing tourism in the area. After reports that hotels had their weekends booked through summer before the end of May, it makes sense that new hotels might try to grab some of the growing tourism market. This coming week, Bozeman will welcome a new hotel to its downtown—the Element hotel.

The Element will be 5 stories and have 104 rooms. It will be located on East Mendenhall, just a block from the vibrant downtown Bozeman district.

The hotel is part of a branch called the Starwood Resort Chain and will be the first LEED certified sustainable hotel in the state. Its sustainability, part of where the Element name came from, is the hotel’s claim to fame. It has been built with salvaged wood ceilings, recycled carpet and flooring made from reused tires. Starwood Resorts want to have all of their hotels reduce their water usage by 20% and carbon emissions by 30% by 2020. For this reason, single use toiletries and bottled waters will be replaced with more sustainable alternatives.

The hotel will employ 50 people, will have dog-friendly rooms and will also have free bikes to rent for its patrons. The hotel joins the Lark Motel and the Etha Hotel as recent hotel projects near downtown. The Etha is still under construction.

Yellowstone is on pace to break visitor records this year while the local skiing continues to garner a larger reputation and following. All the industries that focus on tourism, including the airport, have seen increased traffic. So long as more and more people continue to want to visit and experience Bozeman and Montana’s beauty, the city should expect to see tourist based businesses continue to grow in the area.





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!





Commissioners to Address Bozeman Affordable Housing

by Tim Hart

In a great article by Eric Dietrich of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, he outlined the affordable housing proposal that commissioners will consider on September 21st as well as outlining the comments and concerns about the proposal from the two most prominent, opposing parties.

The proposal was made in light of rising values in the for-sale housing market in Bozeman and whether it’s the local government’s responsibility to help keep a certain segment of homes at the affordable level. Currently, there is worry that some residents will need to move to outlying communities to keep their homes affordable. Bozeman has had experts, non profits, builders and anyone else with creative ideas offer their best suggestions to tackle affordability. Ideally, Bozeman commissioners will reach a decision next Tuesday.

The Proposal: Currently, the median income for a resident in Bozeman is $61,800 and can afford a home up to $250,000. However, as of last November, median home prices sat at $287,000.

To help lower the average costs of homes in Bozeman, the city would try to build 14 new affordable single-family homes and townhouses by 2016 with 54 new units by 2017. The city would use inclusionary zoning to get the homes built. Essentially, they would ask builders to build a certain number of affordable homes for every full subdivision, development etc. To entice builders in, the city would help cut down their costs by subsidizing impact fees and reducing lot sizes.

Three quarters of these homes would be priced for residents only making 90% of the median income. That would help a family of three making $55,600 able to afford a home of $213,000.

The last quarter of affordable homes would be built for residents making $49,450 and below, or 80% of the median income. These residents could afford a home of $161,000. 

Currently, builders and home affordability non-profits sit on each side of the debate and both have brought up their own concerns with the proposal.

HRDC: The HRDC is a non-profit, community action agency that has helped build affordable homes across town as well as help residents below median income levels to keep a good quality of life.  The HRDC’s concern with the new proposal is that it does not go far enough. The HRDC would like to see more affordable housing for those making $49,450 or less. They were also disappointed that the proposal does not address issues of affordability in the Bozeman rental market.

Builders: Local area builders are concerned that the new proposal and regulations will require too much financial risk on their part without equal compensation for their sacrifice. Essentially, they would be asked to recoup the lost profits of adding affordable homes to a subdivision through the impact fees and lot sizes. Builders do not believe the profit line makes that feasible.  On top of that, builders are concerned that even if low income buyers were able to buy a home in Bozeman because it had been subsidized, they may not be able to qualify for financing from banks and other insitutions that want to see certain levels of income.  Builders would take on a lot of financial risk without the guarantee that a buyer would be waiting for them.

No matter what the City Commissioners decide, the affordable housing debate will continue in Bozeman. Hopefully, Bozeman will be able to come up with a proposal that would be agreeable to all parties, if not ideal.



Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 267