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Looking To Sell? 5 Projects to Improve Your Curb Appeal

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

With nice weather becoming a constant and summer just around the corner, this time of year presents a great opportunity for sellers to prepare their homes to hit the market. Many people shop online first, and often times the first image of a home they see is an exterior view. If this initial image doesn’t impress a buyer, they may move on to another home and not continue to consider yours.

These simple projects can help improve the curb appeal of your home if you’re looking to sell this summer:

  • Add a Pop of Color

Because eyes are instinctively drawn to color, adding a few flower pots or hanging flower baskets near your front door or porch can add visual interest and draw positive attention to the exterior of your home.

  • Hang Outdoor Lights

Lighting is a feature that many buyers take into consideration when purchasing a home, and exterior lighting is no exception. Taking the time to install outdoor lighting or hang string lights can enhance your porch or deck area and highlight exterior features of your home that buyers may be interested in.

  • Update Your Fence

Fences, or a lack thereof, are an exterior feature that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Buyers with children or pets will appreciate the presence of a fence because it will create a private and safe area. If you have a fence, consider whether it needs a fresh coat of paint or if any boards are broken or loose. If you don’t have a fence and investing in one is feasible for you, consider the style, color and amount of time it will take to have one installed.  

  • Invest in Landscaping

Adding landscaping to any home can increase the home value and attract the attention of buyers. A few DIY project ideas include planting trees or flowers, cleaning the edges around walkways, or hanging a hammock. While some landscaping projects don’t require the help of a professional, other attributes such as water features or retaining walls may require an investment if you’re looking to up your curb appeal game.

  • Stage an Outdoor Living Room

If you don’t already own patio furniture now might be the time to invest, especially if your home offers views.  Staging an outdoor area with chairs, a table, colorful cushions and an outdoor rug can help buyers visualize afternoons lounging in the sun and evenings spent relaxing with friends, which may contribute to their overall decision to purchase.

While completing these projects isn’t necessary in helping to sell your home, they are all possible options to consider if your curb appeal needs improvement. Regardless of budget or time, there always steps to take in order to add home value and attract buyers' attention.


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To Buy Before or After Selling Your Home?

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

One of the biggest frustrations in the real estate market is timing. Having another property lined-up after selling a home is not always easy. The ideal scenario for sellers is to close on their current home just as they purchase a new one, allowing a seamless move.

Unfortunately, as in most markets, it’s difficult to accurately predict timing between sale and purchase, causing frustrating conflicts in the transition process. The time-frame for getting a home under contract can range anywhere from days (not uncommon in here in Bozeman, Montana) to months or even years (typically for higher priced homes). This is why hiring a Realtor® is worth the investment to gain market insights about local inventory, months of supply, and other market conditions not entirely available to the public.        

In short, there’s no concrete answer about whether it’s better to buy before or after selling your current home. There are pros and cons to either decision (or outcome).

To Buy First?

Pros

If you have the financing available, buying a new home first may be a viable option. Having a home lined-up in advance has the obvious benefit of relieving pressure on your home search. This is typically the biggest advantage of buying first, because buying a home is no small deal, so you really shouldn’t rush and buy under pressure.

Buying first also allows you to move all your stuff and get your home just right before you move in, and again, without having to rush.

Another benefit of buying first is that, although you may end up having an extra mortgage payment, you won’t have to find a place to rent while searching for a new home. And because most renting agreements require a year lease, renting may not be the best option for you.

Cons

However, there exists the risk of not being able to sell your current home, or at least at the price or time-frame you were hoping for, adding the cost of a second mortgage.

Another major disappointment that you may face when buying first is losing out on your dream home. If you don’t have the funding to purchase a new home outright (as most people don’t), your offer will have to be contingent upon sale and transfer of title of your current home. Depending on how your contract is negotiated, a non-contingent offer may force your hand to remove a contingency in typically a 48 to 72-hour period, or terminate

To Sell First?

Pros

The main advantage of selling first is the strong position it puts you in as a buyer to negotiate, without being tied down by sale contingency terms. Offers tied to contingent-upon-sale contracts can significantly lower your negotiating power, and in a seller’s market, are often rejected.

Another great benefit of selling first is that it will give you the cash you may need for your new home.

Cons

On the other hand, selling your home before securing a new one will obviously entail the risk of not having anywhere to live in the meantime. When selling first, you may have to rent, stay at a friend’s house and pay for storage, or do whatever means necessary to find shelter in your transition between homes.

One way to avoid this, however, is to negotiate “rent-back” terms with the buyer of your current home, allowing some additional time for your home search.    

Why Hire a Real Estate Agent?

As discussed already, Realtors® have (or should have) a firm grip on local market conditions. Having experience and exclusive access to local market statistics, a Realtor® can provide a closer estimate of how long it should take for a home to sell in your neighborhood, and negotiate terms and conditions in your best interest. It’s the job of a real estate agent to be your trusted guide and ensure that the whole process, from marketing to writing a contract, flows smoothly.

With that, I have one last important tip: make sure to properly interview prospective real estate agents before entering a contract. Not all Realtors® have the same experience and wisdom in guiding you through the transaction process. Find an agent that truly cares about their clients and will go above and beyond expectations to serve you. Make sure to read through reviews, ask your friends and neighbors, and do some digging to find the right agent for you.

Follow us on Facebook, or sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive exclusive information about the housing market, real estate tips and advice, and local news and development in the Bozeman, Montana area.


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Mortgage Rates Fall By Largest Weekly Margin Over Two Months

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

As of March 23, the average mortgage rates have just fallen by the greatest weekly margin over the last two months, according to Freddi Mac’s mortgage rate survey.

  • From last week, 30-year fixed mortgage rates declined by 7 basis points from 4.30 percent to 4.23 percent this week. At this same time last year, these rates were at a lower 3.71 percent.
  •  
  • 15-year fixed mortgage rates also declined, by 0.05 percent from 3.50 percent to 3.45 percent this week. At this same time last year, these rates were at a lower 2.96 percent.
  •  
  • 5-year adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) declined by 0.04 percent, down from 3.28 to 3.24 percent this week. At this same time last year, these rates were at a lower 2.89 percent.

Mortgage Rate Graph

This data was pulled from Freddie Mac weekly survey data for 2017. While we attempt to provide reliable, useful information, we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. Estimates are subject to change without notice.

 

With such a dramatic change in direction soon after experiencing a jump in rates last week, Freddie Mac notes that this is a sign of continued uncertainty in the market. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) projected a steady climb in mortgage rates through 2017 and 2018, so this might be a better time to lock in on a mortgage rate while it’s lower if you have been looking to buy a home.

 

Follow us on Facebook, or sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive exclusive information about the housing market, real estate tips and advice, and local news and development.


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Red Flags in the Real Estate Market

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

The real estate market is similar to the stock market—it’s a roller coaster. Prices fluctuate, demand is seasonal, and a lot of money can be made by those who know how to play the game.

Tracking the trends and market conditions of your local area is key to anticipating opportunities and threats in the real estate market. Here are some of the biggest factors to look for to help you make smart, informed decisions, whether buying or selling a home.

Months of Supply, or Days on Market (DOM), determines whether the market favors buyers or sellers. As the phrase implies, months of supply indicates the average number of months it takes for a house to sell. Greater than 6 months of supply is considered a buyer’s market, less than 4 months is considered a seller’s market, and anywhere between the two is considered a balanced market.

Number of Closed Sales is a great way to get a feel of how “hot” the market is. Following the trend for closed sales is helpful for understanding the seasonality of your local market. Summer months are typically much busier than winter months.

Mortgage Rates is a major factor in determining buyer demand. The rule of thumb is that as rates go up, buyer demand goes down. In particular, if mortgage rates and housing prices outpace income levels (which is a national trend today), buyer demand will likely decline as home affordability becomes an issue. The Fed funds rate is also an indicator for which direction mortgage rates will go, and the Federal Reserve normally announces what the Fed funds rate will be in the coming years.  

New Construction is a big player (especially today) in determining price levels and available inventory. Currently, much of the nation (including here in Bozeman, Montana) is experiencing a housing shortage, causing prices to rise and intense competition among homebuyers. The construction industry is still recovering from the housing crisis, and is struggling to keep up with demand as millennials enter their prime home buying years.

Local Development is vital to uncover opportunity. Much like a business, real estate investment is all about location, location, location. Development such as new roads, schools, and shopping centers are all signs that property values may increase. A growing community (like Bozeman, Montana) can be very profitable you invest early.

Housing Affordability in city limits is an indicator for future development in outlying areas. Much like what we’re experiencing here in Bozeman, as properties in town become limited and overpriced, you can expect the outer fringes to soon be in high demand.    

Staying informed with these trends will help equip you with the best decisions going into the real estate market. Anticipating which direction the market will turn will not only uncover investment opportunity, but also help insulate you from any threats (like the recent housing crisis).

For exclusive information and statistics in your local market, you can contact a Realtor® for the most recent market conditions. Subscribe to our newsletter, and once a month, we’ll send you local market reports and news updates for the Bozeman, Montana area. 


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How Homebuyers Win in a Seller's Market

How Homebuyers Win in a Seller's Market

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

With limited inventory, and no clear signs that new construction will be catching up any time soon, homebuyers are forced to face a seller’s market. In a seller’s market, competition among buyers is strong, and the pressure is on to place an offer before someone else does. However, there are a few key steps you can take for a competitive edge in a seller’s market.

Know Your Local Market. It’s crucial to know local market conditions, more than ever in a seller’s market. You should get a firm grip on housing prices, inventory levels, information about different neighborhoods, development plans around town, and as much information as you can find (Sign up for our newsletter and, once a month, we’ll send you market reports for the Bozeman, Montana area). Realtors® are also a valuable resource for exclusive insights about market conditions, and can serve as your trusted guides in the real estate market.

Get Pre-approved for a Mortgage. This is huge, but surprisingly ignored by most buyers. From what we’ve experienced as Realtors®, most buyers will start shopping around with an estimate from an online mortgage calculator. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but online mortgage calculators can greatly exaggerate what you can truly afford.

If you’re serious about buying, don’t rely on what you find online. Contact a loan officer and get pre-qualified before you start shopping around. This has several major advantages, including:

#1 Saving Time. It would be a big disappointment if you come across a home that you absolutely love, but is sold before you’re ready to make an offer. Having your finances in order will streamline the process, and allow you to place an offer before other buyers.

#2 Signals to Sellers That You’re Serious. Any offer that isn’t backed by a pre-approved mortgage will likely be ignored. Having proof of financing in-hand shows sellers that your offer is serious, giving you the advantage over other buyers that skipped this pre-emptive step.

#3 Knowing Your Budget. This may be stating the obvious, but it’s important to get an accurate estimate of what you can afford—buying a home is no small deal! A pre-approval from a loan officer is the really the only way to get an accurate estimate, not online mortgage calculators.

Start Shopping Early. While it may be a seller’s market, it can be seasonal. The winter months are typically much slower than the summer months, so buyers may find better leverage and negotiating power earlier in the year. The downside, however, is that slower periods typically means less houses on the market, so you’ll have less to choose from.

Act Fast. In our market, we’ve personally seen listings sell within just hours after being active. This is why the previous tips are so crucial—you need to be ready. When you see a house that you love, and absolutely must have, don’t expect the seller to wait for you. Be prepared to drop everything you’re doing and go see the property, and don’t spend too much making your decision. While you should never buy on impulse, you also need to be diligent if you plan on scoring your dream home in a seller’s market.


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Survey Finds Seceding Buyer Confidence in the Real Estate Market

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) forecasts a negligible increase in existing home sales going into 2017. According to survey findings from a total of 2,776 household respondents from the fourth quarter of 2016, consumers are losing confidence that now is a good time to buy a home.

Much of the skepticism in the market is held by renters. According to the survey, 11 percent of renters lost confidence in buying a home last year. Last quarter, 57 percent of renters believed it was a good time to buy a home, down from 68 percent in 2015.

Homeowners, on the other hand, seem to be more optimistic, with 78 percent of homeowners believing that now is a good time to buy a home. At the same time, the majority of homeowners (62 percent) believe that it is also a good time to sell.

The Contributing Factors

There are several factors that are likely contributing to the seceding buyer confidence—rising mortgage rates, steady price growth, and limited inventory, countered by an optimistic economic outlook.  

Rising Mortgage Rates—With the considerable increase in mortgage rates after the election, buyers may be reluctant to lock themselves in on a higher interest rate than they could have had. However, with expectations of a continued climb in mortgage rates through 2017 and 2018, it might be a better decision to buy now rather than later.

Steady Price Growth—There has been a steady price growth since the housing crisis, with national averages finally back to pre-recession levels. Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of REALTORS®, says there is declining affordability in many areas of the country. With rents and home prices rising faster than income levels, more buyers are falling out of reach of their dream home.

Limited Inventory—A declining supply of inventory is another major issue, one that largely contributes to price increases. The rate of new construction is falling short of demand, by what Yun estimates to be about 3 million homes. How the construction industry accommodates for the rising demand as millennials reach their prime home buying years will shape the market in the years to come.

A Brighter Economic Outlook—The economy seems to be holding things together in the real estate market. Yun says that 2017 is expected to bring about 2 million new jobs. Unemployment levels have fallen to 4.7 percent last year, and is expected to be 4.5 percent through 2017 and 2018. According to a recent forecast from The Federal Open Market Committee projects that the U.S. GDP will rise to 2.1 percent this year.

With more jobs, and more millennials coming to market, Yun is hopeful that buyer demand will remain steady through the affordability tensions brought by rising mortgage rates and prices outpacing income growth.

With so many different factors affecting local markets, it would be wise to get in touch with a real estate agent for the best, and most informed decision about buying or selling. As NAR President William E. Brown says, “A Realtor® will have their pulse on current market conditions and can ensure a buyer is only searching for and making offers on a home that fits within the budget."

 


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Uncertainty in the Market Amidst Diverging Mortgage and Treasury Yield Trends

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Mortgage rates have been relatively steady over the past month. Since we last reported in January 26th, 30 and 15-year fixed mortgage rates, and 5/1 hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage have all only fallen slightly.

 

Mortgage Rates

This data was pulled from Freddie Mac weekly survey data for 2017. While we attempt to provide reliable, useful information, we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. Estimates are subject to change without notice.

 

10-year Treasury yields, however, have been following a different trend. 10-year Treasury yields have been fluctuating considerably through February, and the Chief Economist of Freddie Mac, Sean Becketti, claims these diverging trends among mortgage rates and treasury yields demonstrate continued uncertainty in the market. 

 

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Montana's Economy Leads The Nation

 

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Montana's Economy Leads The Nation

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

How's Montana Real Estate Market? 

As we recover from the housing crisis, it's evident that Montana performed exceptionally well through the recession as compared to the rest of the country. National home prices finally broke-even with the pre-recession peak, but Montana already reached that milestone back in 2014. Montana's real estate prices are now about 10% above where they were before the housing bust.


 

Housing Price Growth.png


Before the recession, Montana's real estate prices were just under par with national averages. But when the housing bust hit, Montana had better resilience to price deflation than rest of the country. The housing bust wasn't nearly as harsh in Montana as other states. Since 2008, housing prices in Montana have stayed well above national averages.

Bozeman, in particular, had the most pronounced price growth of the state. Median sales price of single-family homes in Bozeman are now exceeding $350,000, higher than Montana's most populous cities.

How's Montana's Job Market?

The number of jobs in Montana are also growing at a considerable rate, with our manufacturing industry outperforming the national rate since 2010. From 2010 to 2012, Montana's manufacturing employment grew at an annual rate of 4% to 5%, while the nation's rate climbed by only 2% to 3%. 

Manufacturing Employment .pngEntrepreneurship in Montana

Much of the job growth can be attributed to a number of new establishments, rather than the growth of existing ones. Several of the largest contributors to Montana's rapid job growth through 2010 to 2015 were from fabricated metal products, beverage, and computer/electronic manufacturing. 

# of Establishments in Manufacturing Industry.png
Another achievement worth noting for Montana is the $4.6 billion Air Force contract won by S&K Technologies Inc., an enterprise headquartered on the Flathead Reservation in northwest Montana. While the enterprise has multiple offices in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, S&K returned more than $25 million in dividends to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). As shareholders of the company, the success of S&K makes a significant impact on more than 7,000 members of the Tribes.

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana projected in a 2016 report that the high-tech and manufacturing companies would grow seven-times faster than Montana's overall economy. These sectors are expected to pay average annual salaries of $57,000—more than double the median wage in Montana.


Montana's Economic Outlook

Overall, Montana's economic outlook is looking robust. Housing prices are climbing, high-tech companies are growing, and more high-paying jobs are becoming available. Montana's real estate market and the high-tech sector will be two things to keep track of in 2017.


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Nationwide Housing Shortage

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

As generations grow older, new waves of people are entering the housing market. After graduating college and beginning their career, people in their 20’s begin to look for their first home. These new buyers make a major influence on the nationwide demand in the housing market. To keep housing rates at a healthy level, the amount of vacant houses need to meet the number of new market entrants. Today, concern has risen over our current housing shortage.

With 318.9 million people in the U.S., and 16,585,415 vacant homes in 2015, only 5.2% of this growing population will be able to find a home to move into this year. According to the U.S Census Bureau, 1,055,000 new homes were built in 2015, which is small in comparison to the number of buyers entering the market. First time buyers are typically between the ages of 20 to 29.


With 13.8% of the country’s population in this age group, there is a larger influx of new buyers than houses available.


Considering the rising student debt and housing prices, the housing shortage just adds to the ever growing challenge for first time buyers.

With baby boomer’s now seeing their millennial grandchildren in their twenties, we are experiencing a large expansion of the number of homeowners in this country. Now these millennials are out of college, starting a career, and looking to buy a house.


Millennials have surpassed their parents’ Gen-X and their grandparents’ Baby Boomer generations as the largest American generation to date. 


This influx in housing demand continues to be a challenge for the construction industry, which is still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that the birth rate is not constant. After the millennial generation, the birth rate started to decline. The population of ages 10 to 14, accounting for 6.7% of the population, is .4% less than the age bracket 15 to 19, which is 7.1% of the population. From there, the birth rate continued to decline. Ages 5 to 9 lowered to 6.6% of the population, and ages under 5 are 6.5%. This decrease entails how the housing market will react in the years to come. If the birth rate continues to decline, then we will see a reversing trend in the housing shortage. 

Along with many other factors, population is major determinant of long-term market trends. Keeping all other factors constant, a large bubble in our population will affect future housing trends. When construction fails to keep up with the growing demand for more houses, we experience a housing shortage. Then, as demand supersedes supply, prices increase. This is why it is useful to look at the U.S. Census reports to foreshadow future housing bubbles. 

At Hart Real Estate Solutions, we stay in tune with the latest market stats to anticipate changes in the real estate market. We don’t just present meaningless data either, we analyze it to find noteworthy correlations and estimate projections of what to expect in the future. Subscribe to our monthly newsletters to keep yourself up to date with the latest news and reports, which may help answer some questions you have about real estate, or just provide you with interesting information. Have any questions about your home? Contact us on our website, or give us a call for a free home consultation at (406) 599-6961.

 

Snow in the Big Sky Mountains!

by Hart Real Estate Solutions


Even though we still have had our share of dreamy September days with blue bird skies and perfect 55 – 60 degree nights, the mountains are starting to get a nice coating of ‘ceiling white’.   We are seeing snow in the Spanish Peaks to the South and of course, Lone Mountain – the main ski mountain at the Big Sky & Moonlight Basin Resorts along with the saddle in the Bridgers.


The juxtaposition of 70 degree temperatures in the Valley with snow on the mountains is what makes Bozeman, well... Bozeman. 


We thought you might also enjoy the Big Sky Resort Tram Cam in Big Sky from the top of Lone Mountain– see this link:

                  https://bigskyresort.com/the-mountain/webcams/interactive-tram-cam
 
If you are thinking about a great ski trip this winter, be sure to check out our local, but world class resorts:

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