Real Estate Information Archive


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Montana Unemployment Rate Lowest Since 2007

by Tim Hart

March unemployment numbers were released, bringing more positive news to Montana and the Gallatin County. Montana’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent, down from 4.4% seen earlier this year. That rate is the lowest seen since October of 2007.

The Gallatin County had even lower totals. Only 3.6% of people are unemployed.

The national unemployment rate currently sits at 5.5 percent, also down from 5.7% from earlier this year.

Although the state dropped payroll employees by 500 in March, the state added 8,873 new jobs in the first quarter of 2015.

Coupled with Bozeman’s average cost of living, it makes sense why Bozeman continues to attract those looking to live in a great place, while giving them the opportunity to save money for their life goals.





Montana State University Building Parking Garage

by Tim Hart

Montana State University continues to ride the positive momentum from a growing student enrollment. With recent approval of a new College of Engineering Building at the heart of campus, parking might now be an issue for the growing school. Now, MSU has turned its sights towards a new parking garage to help address the needs of both the students and the public.

MSU had considered several other options to address parking on campus, but ultimately the parking garage dealt best with the issue while offering possible growth in the future.

As MSU has grown, its reputation and quality education have stayed in stride, if not improved at an even faster rate. This past year, MSU attracted its smartest group of incoming freshmen in 25 years. Assuming MSU continues on this track, there is no reason not to expect the school to continue growing.

The parking garage will help address the school’s needs and will be built across from Grant Street and the Strand Union Building—right between the student fitness area and the current parking lots. The new Engineering building will be eating up nearly 400 parking spaces, but the garage will open up around 550 to 600 spaces. Construction will start Fall 2015.

Bozeman’s growth will always be somewhat tied to MSU’s success. So long as MSU continues attracting smart young students, then businesses, parents, teachers and professionals will continue to take part in Bozeman’s economic and housing market growth.




Buying Cheaper than Renting Across Most of United States

by Tim Hart

A new study released by RealtyTrac suggests that in most places across the United States, renters are better off buying a home than paying to rent a home. In fact, in 76% of US counties, buying has become more affordable than renting a home.

Currently, the average price of rent on a 3-bedroom property takes 28% of the average homebuyer’s median income. Rental prices have been rising of late due to the high demand across the nation.

With current low mortgage rates, a monthly payment on a median priced home—inclusive of a 10% down payment, property taxes, home insurance, and mortgage insurance—only took 24% of the average homebuyer’s median income. Basically, if a buyer can afford the down payment, there is very little positive to renting over buying in most US markets.

The Gallatin County and Bozeman may still offer advantages for renting, due to the rising home values of both single-family and multi-family properties in the area and high demand from out of town buyers. Home values have gone up nationally, but Bozeman has been outpacing national home value growth by a good margin.

Bozeman’s high demand as a top mid sized town in the US has continued to grow, leading to higher home values. Both Bozeman and its builders are working on solutions to make homes in Bozeman more affordable—both to rent and buy. General growth may not be the sole solution, as building permit applications and approvals have seen high numbers in the past years, but rental rates and home values have not fallen.

However, any financial advantage to renting in Bozeman has become razor thin due to the rising rental market and lack of spaces for rent.

Bozeman has seen higher rental prices due to its proximity to MSU. MSU enrollment hit an all time high this year, increasing demand for properties near campus. Not many college age students can afford to buy a home, raising rental rates in the area. Bozeman Public School enrollment has also increased, showing general buyer interest in Bozeman, helping keep prices high.

Many renters have had to look to Belgrade and other surrounding areas to find affordable rental prices.

Still, in general, for any renters who have saved any form of down payment, whether in Bozeman or the United States in general, now is certainly the time to consider home ownership and turn a never improving rental situation into an improvable, equity building investment.




Bozeman to Reconsider Historic District Regulations?

by Tim Hart

The City of Bozeman will pay $60,000 for an in depth study reviewing the effects of its Historic Conservation Overlay District on the local real estate market. There will be a meeting at 6 pm on Tuesday in City Hall to discuss Bozeman’s next steps.

The Historic Conservation Overlay district is in the heart of Bozeman and is designed to protect old historic structures that contribute to Bozeman’s look and culture. The district encompasses 3,000 properties in Bozeman.

If any of these 3,000 properties want to adjust, renovate or change the exterior appearance of their home, city planning needs to review and approve the changes. On average, the city deals with around 300 applicants a year.

The Overlay District was first enacted when 3 historic homes were demolished for a now closed Pizza Hut on Babcock Street. Since its enactment, the district has succeeded to preserve the historic character of Bozeman. Bozeman recently was honored as a top 100 location in the US for livability--and the city's character certainly affected that rating.

Now, Bozeman has grown concerned that they are over impacting home affordability in town. Each new application for approval takes time and money, not just from the property owner, but from the city as well, and therefore the taxpayers. The city and builders alike have tried to find alternatives to help lower home values in Bozeman. The district has also become a highly sought after location in town and the district has seen property values rise. Those values could also be rubbing off on nearby neighborhoods and even affecting all of Bozeman’s affordability.

Bozeman would like to find out whether this is the case or not. The study will make its final presentation to City Commissioners in September.




I read a wonderful editorial written by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that discusses Bozeman’s overall health and how that connects into the city’s cultural and economic growth. The writer draws some positive conclusions between the amount of public trails available in the area and the city’s overall health.

According to a University of Wisconsin, the Gallatin County was the healthiest county in the state for the sixth year running. In another recent study, Headwaters Economics concluded that well developed trail systems highly impact a number of quality of life issues in any town, both economic and societal. Could they be related? The writer says yes, of course, and highlights that trails can provide a lot more to a town than just physical health.

Trails are considered a “high amenity asset” that benefits businesses, increases property values in the nearby area and promotes overall public health, according to the Headwaters Economics report. The Gallatin County leads the state in low unemployment, Bozeman’s technology industry continues to attract more and more workers to Bozeman, while single-family and multi-family properties alike have seen their values increase rapidly in the last year as well. These facts suggest that the study may not be too far off from reality.

Headwaters Economics has also released figures highlighting the Gallatin County’s economic and popular growth and have also suggested this might be linked to the high amount of public land in the area. Their reports fall in line with the author’s opinion, that the local trails around Bozeman have directly helped lead to the town’s continued growth and prosperity. For the writer, the trails are necessary—not a luxury—and the writer pointed to the 15 million dollar open space and trails bond that was passed in 2012 as evidence that most Bozemanites think similarly.

From a real estate perspective, having nearby activities within walking distance of any home can really add value to that home. When the activity is nature based, healthy, and of course, free, it can attract buyers who may not have looked in a certain neighborhood or street otherwise. Bozeman continues to be a very healthy, positive environment, so it is no surprise that people want to move to Bozeman.  The writer of the article concludes that one of Bozeman’s greatest assets is that people want to move to Bozeman, they don’t have to move to Bozeman. So long as Bozeman remains a “want” place and not a “have to” place, we should expect to continue seeing the growth and prosperity it has enjoyed in recent years.




This month, we will compare single-family residence sales for Quarter 1 in the Gallatin County between 2014 and 2015. The 2015 numbers reflect sales through 2/28/15. Since Quarter 1 of 2015 has not ended, I have adjusted quarterly numbers in 2015 by adding a month of projected home sales.

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

  • Unit sales decreased in the first quarter by 2.92% (211 sold in 2014, 137 in 2015, adjusted quarterly rate of 205)
  • Dollar volume decreased in the first quarter by 2.48% ($87,394,684 in 2014, $56,812,622 in 2015, adjusted quarterly rate of $85,227,460
  • Median sale price in the first quarter increased by 11.08% ($289,000 in 2014, $325,000 in 2015)

Summary – Numbers for the month of March are projected numbers. Although January and February sales were slightly lower than those seen in 2014, March may greatly impact the overall market health of the quarter. Based on these projected numbers, the market saw a slight setback but continues to stay on pace with high sales seen in 2014. Median sale prices continue to rise, showing that home values in the Gallatin County are up and trending upwards. As of now, 2015 looks to be in line with numbers seen in 2014.

The Gallatin County and southwest Montana, along with a few select regions in the state, have helped raise the average wage for the state and lower unemployment numbers.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle analyzed numbers released by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and split the state into its major regions.

The Billings region, lead Montana with an average wage of $40,733 in 2013. Southwestern Montana came in just behind that with an average wage of $39,698. In Gallatin County, 66% of its residents earned their income through a wage or salary disbursement.

Despite the Gallatin County leading the state in economic growth, the average wage still came in second to the Billings region. Perhaps the slightly lower wages reflect the consequences of being a major tourist hub for the state. In an area with high tourism, many retail and service industry jobs that pay minimum or close to minimum wage will find greater success. The minimum wage was raised from $7.90 an hour to $8.05 an hour across the state at the beginning of 2015.

The highest earners in the state were physicians and surgeons at $243,000 per year. The lowest average wage came from gaming dealers—at $18,150 a year.

Montana and the Gallatin County both had unemployment rates below national averages. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the United States currently sits at 5.7 percent. Currently, 4.4% of Montanans are unemployed. In Gallatin County, only 3.6% of people are unemployed.






Cannery District Project Scheduled for Fall Opening

by Tim Hart

The Cannery building, the focal point of the Cannery District, will be set to open for business starting this fall. After jumping through hoops and dealing with discussions of a possible city annexation, the owners are now ready to move on the Cannery Building itself. The owners already have a variety of businesses set up to lease the space once the building is ready.

Currently crews are working on bringing the 4-story Cannery building up to new guidelines and code and expect the building to be ready on time.

The owner’s goal is to bring centrality and vibrancy to the district. As of now, the building will be welcoming a barbershop, an architect, a physical therapy group and a marketing technology firm. The owner’s hope to have a restaurant on the bottom floor and one spot is still currently available.

The building is the first phase of a 4 phase Cannery Renewal Project. By project’s finish, the Cannery District should have 15 buildings in total, costing roughly 15 million dollars.

Bozeman Growth in Top 10 Nationally

by Tim Hart

The US Census released new population numbers that have put Bozeman into the top ten fastest growing small towns in the United States over 2014. For those keeping score, Bozeman scored 6th on the list. Williston and Dickinson North Dakota came in at 1 and 2 because of the local oil booms they have experienced.

The Gallatin County has led the state in economic growth, with Bozeman helping lead the charge for the county overall. The surrounding area's public lands have also been a major reason for the population growth. And with Bozeman's average cost of living equaling national averages and its reputation for high level schools, its easy to see why people continue to move to the area.

According to Chris Mehl, Bozeman City Commissioner, the growth has occurred in part due to a very strong retail and health care sectors, growing tourism, low unemployment and its attraction to senior citizens. Bozeman Deaconess Hospital has started work on a new addition to better address the growing population. High paying jobs and the fast growing technology industry have both attracted many to Bozeman. A small town with a very active airport are also a rare combination, according to Mehl.

Bozeman’s reputation has grown as it has appeared on a variety of national lists over the last year. Bozeman has been ranked a top 25 ski town in the world, has been ranked the 6th most artistically and culturally vibrant small town in the US, has made it into the top most livable cities list along with one of the best places to retire in the United States.

As Bozeman grows, roads, infrastructure, and utilities will be problems that will need to be addressed by the city. All will cost money, but will be necessary to keep Bozeman the attractive town it currently is to so many.




YMCA Moving Forward with 5.5 Million Center

by Tim Hart

The Gallatin YMCA will move forward with their plans to construct a 5.5 million dollar athletic facility just north of Gallatin Regional Park in Bozeman. According to preliminary plans, the building would be 24,000 square feet and would include weight and cardio centers, locker rooms, a community program area and administrative space.

The 7-acre site was purchased by the YMCA, thanks to a large donation in 2008. However, after the recession tightened up funding, the project has been on the back burner ever since.

Recently, the YMCA restarted their attempts to get the facility running. They have been requesting donations from the community and so far, have raised 2.5 million for the first phase of the project.  In summer 2014, to lighten their load, they paired with the City of Bozeman to build a new aquatics center. But once the bond approving a new law and justice center fell through, the aquatic center moved down on the city’s priorities.

The YMCA serves 5,800 kids annually. That number has grown by 540% since 2010. Bozeman continues to attract new families, looking to raise their children in a positive environment. The YMCA’s recent growth helps support that claim.

As Bozeman continues to grow and continues to stay such a family friendly environment, residents should expect more, similar projects to better address their family needs in the future.




Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 224