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How Rising Home Prices & Growing Wages Relate to Desirability in Montana

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Montana housing market prices are high, especially in Bozeman. In 2016, the median sale price for a single-family home in Bozeman was $359,250. Fast forward one year— the median sale price in Bozeman in 2017 was $380,750 (a 5.98% increase from the previous year).      

This data was pulled from the Big Sky Country MLS for 2018. 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.

 

In terms of median home values, Bozeman ranked the highest when compared to both other large cities in the state and the United States as a whole.

 

Median Home Values 

Although wages in Montana remain lower than the U.S. average, they are growing faster than other areas across the country. In 2000, the average weekly wage in Montana was 69% of the U.S. level— by 2016, they had grown to 76% of the U.S. level. Quickly growing wages could be a contributing factor to the ever-increasing demand for housing in Montana (and Bozeman in particular), although the demand for quality of life is likely the largest reason for the high demand and rapidly growing population. While the median household income in Bozeman is currently $68,000 (keeping pace with the current median home price), this statistic doesn’t account for the quality of the housing that is available at this price.

Many of the people coming to Bozeman are not reliant on Montana’s economy for income. This group of people includes out-of-state residents who own a second home in Montana, telecommuters, and retirees. In 2010, the share of second homes in Montana was 8%, while the U.S. percentage was only 3.5%. Our state also attracts a large number of people who have the financial means to live wherever they choose—23% of Montana’s personal income comes from non-wage sources such as dividends and retirement. The U.S. level is only 19%. In Gallatin County, more than 40% of adjusted gross income comes from non-wage sources.

Because of the high quality of life in Montana, rising housing costs are partially related to the state’s desirability to those whose income isn’t related to Montana’s economy, which means that wage increases may not be as tied to housing cost increases as we previously thought.

With Bozeman’s population expected to hit 50,000 by the 2020 census, wages growing relatively quickly, and home prices continually on the rise, when will our local market start to become more balanced? With new construction expected to rise as we move closer to that 50,000 mark and potential inventory growth predicted countrywide by the fall, we may be moving closer to both a more balanced market and more affordable housing than we think. 

Why Baby Boomers and Millennials Are Competing for Housing

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

For years, many parents put their family homes up for sale once the kids grew up and moved out— this is known as the “empty nest” story, where many parents wanted to downsize as they grew older and neared retirement. This isn’t the case anymore— many Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) haven’t been able to find a smaller home that was cheaper than the large family home, so instead they’re opting to stay put and not sell. With so many Boomers choosing not to list their homes for sale, overall inventory has remained tight and prices have stayed high.

Why is this?

In a recent survey conducted by Realtor.com, 85% of Baby Boomers said they were not planning on selling their homes in the next year. When asked why, 72% said that their current home met their family’s needs, 13% said financial concerns prevented them from selling, and 12% said they needed to make home improvements before selling. Baby Boomers hold a very high stake in the housing market, as they currently make up 78% of ALL homeowners, while Millennials only make up 41%.

As Baby Boomers decide to stay put, this removes about 33 million properties from the housing market. Many of these homes are suburban single-family homes or urban condos— the same types of homes that Millennials are looking to buy. However, many of these older homes do not have the same modern, open-floor plan that both Millennials and Baby Boomers alike are attracted to, making it difficult for Baby Boomers to sell their homes. Both generations are competing for the same types of homes (1,800-1,950 sq. ft.), even though they have different lifestyles.

Many low-end homes that Millennials would consider purchasing in a more balanced market are being rented rather than being available for sale, due to competition being so high. The idea of purchasing a starter home and reselling it several years down the right road when they’re ready to settle down and start a family is no longer a viable option for them, due to lack of inventory and affordability in today’s market. As a result, many Millennials are now skipping traditional starter homes, and choosing to buy something larger right off the bat.

The Future

Many analysts believe that more housing in the future should be built to cater to the desires of Millennials (greener materials, less square footage, etc.) rather than the older generations. Others believe that Baby Boomers will eventually sell their homes as they hope to get a better price later rather than settling for a lower price now. If and when “the great senior sell-off” happens, it isn’t likely until the mid-to-late 2020s, as the oldest millennials approach their mid-40s and are more interested in the larger homes that the preceding generation is ready to let go of.

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

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Housing Market Trends Amongst Generation Y

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Housing Market Trends Amongst Generation Y

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Inventory of homes for sale is tight and as a result, months of supply is low. With so many homes not remaining on the market for long, sellers have the advantage over buyers in that they have a much higher chance of obtaining top dollar for their home.  While this information isn’t new, you may be surprised to learn that generational trends play a huge role in today’s housing market, particularly amongst the buyer population. 

Who’s Buying the Most?

Different generations have different home buying tendencies and patterns. In 2016, Millennials/Generation Y (ages 36 and younger) represented 35% of all homebuyers across all other generations. This year, that number is down to 34%— still the largest share of home buyers. Of these buyers, 66% were also first-time home buyers. Generation X (ages 37-51) represented 28%, Younger Baby Boomers (ages 52-61) represented 16%, Older Baby Boomers (ages 62-70) represented 14%, and the Silent Generation (71-91) represented 8%.

 

Of all Gen Y buyers, 46% had a median student loan balance of $25,000, and 23% agreed that saving for a down payment was the most difficult step in the home buying process. It makes sense that this loan balance would decrease over time as the buyer ages, due to increases in income— however, 27% of buyers between the ages of 37 and 51 had the highest median loan balance of $30,000. This is likely due to accumulation of their children’s college loans on top of their own remaining balances.

Why Is Gen Y Dominating the Buyer’s Market?

Despite low inventory, rising house prices, and student loan debt, why does Gen Y represent the largest share of home buyers? For starters, rent prices are on the rise too— when taking into consideration that monthly rent payments can increase over time and mortgage payments are fixed, many Gen Yers are leaning towards home ownership. Many are also choosing a mortgage over renting because of their dogs— 33% of Gen Y home buyers stated their primary reason for purchasing a home was to have a yard and plenty of room for their dog, while 25% stated it was because of marriage and 19% stated that it was the birth of a child. Simply put, the desire to own a home of their own, the desire for a larger home, and a change in their family situation were the top 3 reasons amongst all Gen Yers for purchasing a home.

Looking Towards 2018

Although student debt and rising house prices may present a challenge for some, many Gen Yers are putting these factors aside and continuing to contribute to the housing market in a pretty significant way. As the days remaining before 2018 starts are limited, here’s what the Professional Warranty Service Corporation predicts for generational home trends for the new year: Gen Yers will represent 45% of all home loans while Baby Boomers represent 30%, and overall home sales will increase by 8%, or about 670,000 units. So far, it looks like Gen Y is on track to dominate the market for another year! 


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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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