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5 Easy Steps to an Energy-Efficient Home

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

The simplest things can make a big difference in the efficiency of your home. Many homes waste energy that could have easily been saved—but not yours, because you found this article.

Here’s a few easy ways to save a ton of money on your home energy bills:

#1. Choose the Right Windows

Windows are the biggest source of heat loss/gain in a home.

If you own an old home that still has single-pane windows, replace them with newer, energy-efficient windows and you’ll probably see an immediate difference in your energy bills.

A choice as simple as the type of windows you buy can make all the difference. You should always consider frame materials and designs when buying new windows. Hinged windows are more efficient than sliding windows because they allow less air leakage between seams. As for the materials, avoid metal frames because they conduct heat, and choose insulated fiberglass window frames for the best efficiency.

Special note: Choose the right windows for your climate. If you live in cold, wet climates, choose materials like vinyl, fiberglass, or wood-resin composite (windows labeled with U-values less than .3 are the most insulated).

#2. Seal the Leaks

If you see a gradual increase in your energy bills over the years (given prices or anything else hasn’t changed), you might have a leak somewhere on your home’s exterior. If this is the case, you should call an HVAC company and have them do and energy audit on your home to find any hidden leaks.

In the meantime, look around your window frames and doorways, beneath your baseboards, and around flues and chimneys. If you find a leak, you can either use caulk, weather-strips, or foam spray insulation to seal it up.

Special note: Sliding barn doors can make a tighter seal than hinged doors in some cases, because it fits in a slot inside the door frame rather than against it (plus they could go well with rustic styles homes if you have one).

#3. Get a New HVAC System

Older HVAC systems are much less efficient than new and improved designs that are available today. If your current system is more than 10 years old, it would be wise to either get a new one or make improvements to bring it into this decade.

Special Note: Humidifiers can be integrated with your HVAC system to add water vapor to the system’s air flow, which can greatly improve humidity levels during the dry seasons of fall and winter (which might help when you have a sore throat)

#4. Pack More Insulation

The amount of insulation a home has is arguably the most important aspect in keeping your home energy-efficient. We’ve seen a beautiful home in a great location with hardly any flaws but one that turned a few buyers away- the insulation was so bad that the energy bills were outrageous!

Older homes like that one could have insulation that became compressed or shifted out of place over the years. Adding the appropriate amount of insulation to the attic will have the biggest effect, given that it is installed properly with no gaps and with the recommended amount of insulation for the region.

Special note: Adding insulation to your walls does not have to be a big demolition project (unless that’s what you want). Contractors can blow insulation into the walls without tearing all of it down.

#5. Get a Programmable Thermostat

Isn’t it wonderful how advanced technology is getting these days? New programmable thermostats that are available now can be set to change the temperature of your home on a schedule, so you won’t have to remember to adjust it every day before you leave the house. Some new thermostats can even change the settings remotely. Imagine the cost savings!

Black-Olive Proposal Denied by Bozeman City Commissioners

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

The long, drawn out debate over the Black-Olive proposal has finally ended. On April 11th, about 7 months after it was proposed in Sep. 2016, city commissioners decided to nix the proposal after concerns were raised about insufficient parking and blocked views of the surrounding countryside.

Bozeman residents seem to agree with this decision too. A recent poll conducted by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle showed that 65.2 percent of its readers approved of the city’s choice to deny the project.


black-olive proposal public poll

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: “Did Bozeman city leaders make the right choice to deny Black-Olive”

The project’s design was to feature 56 apartments in five stories and a commercial business space on the ground-floor, along with 37 on-site parking spaces.

With the proposed project site located so close to Bozeman’s cherished historic neighborhood south of Main Street, neighboring residents were concerned that the building would ruin “Bozeman’s small-town charm.”  

The major reason why commissioners voted 4-1 to deny the proposal was due to lack of sufficient parking, as all housing projects within Bozeman’s zoning districts require at least one parking space per unit. Neighbors in the vicinity to the Black-Olive project site raised concerns about residents filling up already crowded street parking in front of their homes.

So What Now?

The project’s developer, Andy Holloran, wants to regroup, modify the design, and resubmit the proposal for later review. If the parking issue and building aesthetics can be reworked and are in line with the development guidelines for downtown’s zoning district, the Black-Olive project may be revisited and reconsidered in the near future.

The Black-Olive project may have been scrutinized, but that’s not to say that mid-rise buildings are out of the picture for Bozeman. There are still three mid-rise projects that have either been approved, already built, or are currently under construction, including the SOBO Lofts, Element Hotel, and the 5 West Building.

All Current Mid-Rise Development Projects/Proposals

 

Perhaps this was the right project but for the wrong location, given that we may be seeing a reconfigured proposal again soon!

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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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Bozeman Montana Becomes Hot Spot for High Tech Companies

 

 

Bozeman’s 4th Mid-Rise Building Proposed to Replace an Old Grain Mill

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Bozeman’s 4th mid-rise building is currently being scoped out for a site on the east side of downtown. This BG Mill building will have a little more character than the rest though, turning an old grain mill that has been vacant for decades into a 5-story, multi-use building with a mixed modern/rustic style architecture.

The proposed plan for the BG Mill project includes a parking garage and a small commercial space on the ground floor, 18,000 square feet of office space on the middle levels, and 10 condos on the top two levels. The project developers, Michael Ochsner and Chris Lohss, plan to integrate three silos from the grain mill into landscaping features and hopefully keep the “BG Mill” logo for the new building.

Although there has been a long, drawn-out debate over mid-rise buildings changing the character of Bozeman’s small-town charm, Ochsner and Lohss point out that the site, located on the southeast corner of Mendenhall Street and Broadway Avenue, is already surrounded by other existing commercial properties.

While residents are concerned that the Black-Olive project, another mid-rise building proposed for Bozeman, would cast a shadow over Bozeman’s southern historic downtown neighborhoods, the BG Mill project may not cause nearly the same issue.

Positioned between the south end of a neighborhood and the north end of downtown Main Street, the site seems to be better suited for its location where it wouldn’t obstruct views of the Bridger Mountains to the North—a major point in the argument against mid-rise buildings in Bozeman.

The project developers said they haven’t filed an application for the project yet, but plan to do so by next week. Once approved, construction of the BG Mill project is hoped to break ground this summer.

A public meeting will be held at the Bozeman Public Library on April 13 at 7 p.m. to discuss the project and gather feedback from the public.

All Current Proposed Mid-Rise Development Projects for Bozeman.

Follow us on Facebook, or sign up for our monthly newsletter for exclusive access to our latest market stats, expert tips and advice, and local news and development in the Bozeman, Montana area.


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Bozeman Ranks Second as the Fastest Growing Small Town in America

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

According to the U.S. Census Bureau population estimates from 2014 to 2016, Bozeman, Montana was the second fastest growing micropolitan area in the country for the second year in a row, with a population growth rate of 3.6 percent.

While a micropolitan area is categorized by the Census Bureau as a county that “contains a core urban area with less than 50,000 people” (half of what is estimated for the Bozeman area), it also includes adjacent counties that have a high degree of social and economic integration with the core urban area. By definition, this means that the following estimates may include outlying areas where a large portion of residents commute from.

From 2014 to 2015, the population in the Bozeman area increased from 97,276 to 100,739 residents—a change of 3,463 residents. Over the same period, Williston, North Dakota far outpaced other areas in population growth, at 9.9 percent.

From 2015 to 2016, Bozeman grew at a slightly higher rate of 3.7 percent, ending 2016 at a population of 104,502—a change of 3,763 residents. This time, Heber, Utah took the lead at a growth rate of 4.5 percent, while Williston took a downward turn with a -3 percent growth rate.

Although we came in second for growth rate, Bozeman actually had the greatest population increase, and by a large margin. There weren’t many other areas that gained even a third in the number of new residents as Bozeman did. If it wasn’t for the smaller sizes of the other areas, each having a population around 35,000, we could have been in first.

What Does This Mean for Bozeman?

Well, for one, there’s certainly no sign of Bozeman slowing down.

According the latest economic report by the local nonprofit Prospera Business Network, non-labor income is “one of the largest and fastest growing sources of income in the West.” In 2015, non-labor income accounted for 36 percent of total personal income in Gallatin County, according to data collected by Headwaters Economics.

While retail, food, construction remains the three largest employers in Gallatin County, it’s no surprise that the high-tech sector is growing at such a rapid rate. Read our latest report on Montana’s high-tech sector to find out more.

Consequently, with so much growth and demand, the cost of living is on the rise. In April 2016, Bozeman’s estimated cost of living was 0.4 percent below the national average. However, both housing and health care costs were above average, by 6.6 and 3.9 percent respectively.

From 2014 to 2016, the median sale price for a home in Gallatin County was up 8 percent, now at $309,000.

Follow us on Facebook, or sign up for our monthly newsletter for exclusive access to our latest market stats, expert tips and advice, and local news and development in the Bozeman, Montana area.


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Bozeman Montana Becomes Hot Spot for High Tech Companies

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

The high-tech industry is thriving in Montana, growing at a rate seven times faster than other sectors.

Montana’s high-tech companies are expecting to add roughly 1,000 new jobs this year, paying an average salary of $60,000—more than double the median annual income in Montana.   

The Montana High Tech Business Alliance counted a total of 546 tech companies in Montana as of December 20, 2016. Yet the organization says there are even more companies unaccounted for, as smaller companies may be hiding in remote business parks and second-floor offices without signage.

Much of the attention seems to be focused around the Universities. With Montana State University pumping out more qualified talent each year, as FICO Chief Executive Officer Will Lansing says, “the talent pool in this part of Montana has attracted dozens of leading technology firms.”

High Density of High Growth, High-Tech Companies

He wasn’t kidding either. Here’s a list of some of the most successful high-growth technology companies in Bozeman, Montana.

Ascent Vision, an aerospace technology company based in Bozeman, grew from two people to a team of 50 and made millions within just the first year of operation in 2013. Last year, the company began construction of a new 30,000 sq. ft. facility by Belgrade. It will be interesting to see how this company will grow with the rising demand for sensors in UAVs, counter UAS systems, self-driving cars, and ground based military applications.

Elixiter, a marketing services firm, averaged an astounding 100 percent growth rate year over year, landing on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest growing companies in 2016. Having such rapid and unanticipated expansion, the company relocated four times in four years, finally settling on the northeast side of Bozeman.

FICO, a data analytics company for credit rating services, plans to add a new location in downtown Bozeman, and hire 50 new employees within the next 18 months. The company employs roughly 3,000 around the world, and is a recognized leader in analytic technology. FICO was ranked #31 among the Top Technology Providers in financial services ​by American Banker and BAI, and was also named to the Analytics 50 by Drexel University and CIO.com.

Foundant Technologies, is a “software-as-a-service” company in Bozeman that develops grant and scholarship management software, was also on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest growing companies in 2016, but for the third consecutive year in a row.   

PrintingForLess.com (PFL), while technically located in Livingston, Montana, is close enough to give credit to the Bozeman area. PFL landed on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies for three consecutive years, and appeared on CNBC, Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times for having innovative HR policies. Having established the first website for commercial printing, PFL has made significant progress since it was founded in 1996. It evolved from a traditional print shop into a sophisticated marketing technology company. It’s expecting significant growth in 2017 with its new software, named “Tactile Marketing Automation.”

Quiq, a firm that develops text messaging software for customer service, scored a $6.5 million investment last year—a great start after just being established in October 2015. Company CEO Mike Myer, a former employee of RightNow Technologies before it sold to Oracle for $1.8 billion, says it was an easy decision to choose to start this business in Bozeman. He says “Montana is a great place to recruit up-and-coming people, and not just recruiting, but retention and loyalty.”

Wisetail, a learning management software (LMS) company in Bozeman, is an inspiring entrepreneurial example. Amidst the most recent housing crisis, company founder, Justin Bigart, started the company with the ambition to repay his debts, refusing to consider bankruptcy as an option. His hard work and determination certainly paid off. Wisetail ranked #32 in Outside Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work in 2016, named one of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in America by Inc., and one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Best Small Businesses in America.  


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