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Streamline Bus System Hits 2 Million Riders

by Tim Hart

The Streamline Bus System had its 2 millionth rider last week—a noteworthy benchmark for the Gallatin Valley public transportation system. The busses have served its greater Bozeman area residents  for eight years and by breaking the 2 million rider mark has confirmed the Gallatin’s increased use and need of the bus system.

Over the first 5 years, Streamline reached the million rider mark. However, it only took 3 years and 3 months to serve the second million. Not only does this show the growth of the Gallatin Valley in general, but it also shows the increasing popularity of the valley’s bus system. Last year, Streamline served 330,000 riders.

Streamline busses help Bozeman become more than just a “car only” town. The city has focused on keeping itself affordable for all types of people. Streamline helps those who want to live in the area without owning a car by offering them a form of public transport that had not really existed previously.

However, Streamline serves many people who have their own methods of transportation as well. 40 percent of Streamline riders own a vehicle. By keeping these people’s cars off the roads, the bus system has helped lower traffic and traffic emissions around Bozeman.

The streamline takes care of some “Bozeman wants”, in addition to the “Bozeman needs.” For example, the Streamline does go up to Bridger while its Big Sky brother the Skyline offers trips up to Big Sky resort.

As Bozeman and the surrounding area grows, it will be more important to have the necessary infrastructures in place. Bozeman has turned its attention towards its rental vacancy concerns and the prospect of a increasing internet speeds in the area. Hopefully, those issues will be addressed as soundly as public transportation was when they enacted the Streamline 8 years ago.





Rental Vacancy at 20-Year Low in US

by Tim Hart

The nation is still looking for room to rent. The national vacancy rate for rented units has dropped to a 20 year low. The rate has not been this low since the Fourth Quarter of 1993.

Bozeman, Montana has seen these lack of vacancies first hand, thanks to a growing town and surrounding area, schools and university. Bozeman has preemptively added additional housing and even built new subdivisions to better address the rental needs in the area, though it is yet to be seen whether these changes will improve the vacancy rate compared to 2014.

In the US in general, rising rents and a small supply of rentable properties should help renters facing affordability issues transition to homeownership. Currently, the homeownership rate has been falling and has hit a point not seen since 1994. However, as mortgage rates have dropped, as the FHA has lowered mortgage insurance rates, and as mortgagees have began offering lower down payments, most believe that household formation should pick up its pace.

Many millenials, who had not been transitioning to homeownership, may now be able to jump in as buyers, not renters, especially with improvement in the labor market. First time buyers only hold a 29% share of the housing market, well below the average of 40 percent. As the economy has improved, several experts believe that these buyers will now do just that—buy.

Homeowner vacancy rate is low at 1.9 percent. Builders have shown increased confidence that they will have a buyer for their new construction.

Although the low rental vacancy rates have caused some issues throughout the country, the market has left positive hints at what could be in the future. The homeownership market could see big changes this year, as many renters will have to decide to buy or keep renting.





Bozeman public schools will once again be on the forefronts of national studies, as they have once again been selected to take part national research. Bozeman has already been selected for a highly competitive mental health program/study this year. Great news reached the district, when they found out that once again they had been selected for a prestigious program.

This study will take 72 Bozeman teachers through an intensive program to improve math teaching. The study is being led by researches at Montana State University, George Mason University, and Harvey Mudd College. The survey has been funded by the National Science Foundation, who offered a grant of 1.3 million dollars.

The project will study 3 public school districts—Bozeman, Fairfax County, and Pomona California. The project will take three years and will focus on teachers’ uses of mathematical modeling and how it affects student performance. Preliminary research has shown that students who work with real world problems feel less anxious about math and will be more likely to view the subject as useful and relevant. The universities hope to see improvement in around 4,000 students between the three districts.

Once again, the Bozeman School District has been selected for a high level educational study. The national radar continues to hover and focus on Bozeman for its outstanding academics, particularly as a public system. Winning such studies will only help make Bozeman faculty all the better at offering Bozeman children the highest quality education possible. Any parent looking at Bozeman should consider the positive momentum that the school district has built and how that may propel Bozeman as an educational haven in the future.




Bozeman Public Schools Hit New Highs in Enrollment

by Tim Hart

The Bozeman School District has set a new enrollment record of 6,294 students showing the continued growth of Bozeman and its attraction to parents. The record actually fell 51 students short of projected numbers but still had 108 more students than any other year.

Increasing enrollment numbers in both Bozeman elementary and middle schools have driven the overall enrollment numbers to their heights. This year, 2,946 children enrolled in Kindergarten through 5th grade. 1,375 students enrolled in grades six through 8. Both records are all time highs.

Bozeman now has more than 500 kindergarteners enrolled in the district. The two new elementary schools that have been built in the last few years have helped alleviate the growing numbers, but the city may now have to focus on its Middle Schools.

The highschool enrolled 1,973 students this year, only ten shy of the record set in 2005.

The rising enrollment numbers correlate well with the growth of Bozeman. Many out of town buyers find Bozeman because they started their housing search by looking for high performing schools. So long as the schools maintain their high quality, it can only be expected that more and more parents will be attracted to Bozeman.



College Towns See Highest Growth in Housing Market

by Tim Hart

College and University towns have outpaced non-university towns in their housing market growth. Cities and towns with a heavy student influx have, in general, outperformed the national averages for housing price trends, according to Clear Capital’s Home Data Index Market Report.

The report sampled 10 metro areas that have a large student presence and found that their average housing price has grown by 32% since 2004. College towns provide a consistent yearly influx of new renters, looking for their home for the year, making these homes ideal for property investors. Not only can they make money on the rent each month, when they decide to sell, a consistent buyer’s market will help them turn a profit. Once these students graduate, they often want to stay in the town they went to school. Each graduating class leaves a large market of potential homebuyers, helping drive home prices higher.

In Ithaca, NY, home to Cornell and Ithaca College, home prices have risen by 51% since 2004. Boulder Colorado, home of UC Boulder have seen their prices rise by 26%. In Cambridge, home of Harvard, housing prices have gone up 39% and that zip code has outperformed the rest of the surrounding Boston metro area by 36 percent.

Although, many in the housing industry can thank college students for improving the market, the students themselves are finding it harder to transition into a first time homebuyers. Outstanding student loans make it very difficult to then be approved for a mortgage loan. How this market conflict will resolve itself in the future is yet to be seen.

For a town like Bozeman, Montana, a healthy growing town, with a growing University presence, this study can only bode well for property owners and investors. Although Bozeman is not as big as the towns surveyed, it fits the bill perfectly. Seeing how crazy rental demand got at the start of the semester, finding a tenant in Bozeman is not difficult. Anyone considering purchasing property near the University should consider the potential benefits of owning one of these homes.


Buyer Demand Increasing Based on Economic Growth

by Tim Hart

I read a good article by Jonathan Smoke about the strengthening economy. In it, he gives a lot of facts underscoring why buyer demand is increasing. Here were some interesting facts from his article:

Pending home sales grew in September and registered the first year-over-year gain since 2013.

Strength in the labor market has directly affected improvements in the housing industry. New jobless claims were below 300,000 this month. It sounded like a lot to me, but according to Smoke, the last month to average less than 300k jobless claims was June 2000. He also noted that continuing claims haven’t been as low as they were at the height of the housing boom.

The first estimate of the third quarer shows the GDP growing by 3.5%, with all sectors contributing to the growth.

Mortgage rates remain near their one-year lows.

Credit requirements are easing as more buyers become eligible for loans.

With all of these factors combined, Smoke paints a clear picture as to why buyer demand has continued to increase. Real estate buyers and sellers, particularly in a market like Bozeman, should take note of the changing conditions. Buyers may now be eligible when they weren’t before; and sellers may be able to find that buyer willing to go up a little in price.








Bozeman has once again grabbed the national spotlight this week when it was selected by Money Magazine as one of the most desirable places to retire in the United States. Specifically, Bozeman was the runner up for best town for an encore career, behind Iowa City.

According to the magazine, winners were chosen based on the likelihood of their financial and retirement success if they were to live in those places for their retirement. The magazine used a study done by the National Institute on Retirement Security to base their list. The study they used ranked the states, one through fifty, based on the financial security of their older community members. The study focused on housing prices, taxes, pension income, and job opportunities among other financial factors. Surprisingly, traditional retirement locations like Florida and Arizona did not score well in this study. In contrast, Northern states excelled despite their harsh winter climates and Wyoming led all states.

Money Magazine took the 12 states that scored highest in the study, in order to decide the best individual cities for retirement. The magazine started with nearly 200 locations and narrowed it to 30. After extensive interviews of the local people, they whittled the top thirty down to the final nine and Bozeman was included.

Money Magazine chose Bozeman as the runner up for retirees looking to take another crack at the working life. They cited Bozeman’s fast growing economy, coupled with a booming technology industry that can allow someone in the twilight of their career to be considered for and win employment. Although Bozeman has become a legitimate technological presence, it still lacks workers with experience in comparison to places like Silicon Valley. Those with technology backgrounds can stand by their experience and expertise in a town defined by a plethora of recent grads. Despite these graduates’ best efforts, they have only garnered 20 some odd years of life experience, let alone 20 years of work experience.

The magazine looked past money as the sole factor for a moving retiree. They also pointed to Bozeman’s historic downtown, with its old hotels and 100 plus locally owned small businesses as a major draw for retirees. With plenty to do outdoors, new retirees need not worry about finding activities to fill their recently opened days. The magazine warned against the weather, warning anyone looking to move that they would have long, cold winters ahead. But for anyone who enjoys being out in the snow, the cold is a small con compared to the long list of pros.

Bozeman continues to shine in both Montana and the nation. The growing economy, the growth of the city and the growth of the culture and feel of the town continue to attract more and more people looking to share in the funs and pleasures of Bozeman.


Fifteen-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Hits Lowest Since 2013

by Tim Hart

For homebuyers looking to refinance their mortgage, great news came surrounding 15 year mortgage interest rates. The average rate for a 15 year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 3.08%, the lowest level since June of 2013. The rate fell by 0.1 percent compared to last week and has dropped significantly compared to the 3.36% that it started at earlier in the month. Rates on 30 year loans also dipped 0.05% and has dipped below 4 % for the first time since June 2013.

With a struggling economy, investors have avoided investing overseas and instead have turned to government bonds and mortgage-backed securities, lowering interest rates.

Homeowners with recent mortgages can refinance their thirty-year loan for the 15 year loan, at its current rate. Homeowners should be aware that their payments will not go down in a refinance and in general they will almost always go up. According to CNN money, for anyone with a mortgage balance of $200,000, they can expect to pay about $340 a month more than in a 30-year mortgage. However, instead of making a $1075 payment for 25 more years, they could instead pay $1,423 over 15 years. A homeowner could potentially save $137,000 in interest over the lifetime of the loan.


Snowfill Dog Park Expanding Trail System

by Tim Hart

The Gallatin Valley Land Trust has spearheaded a recent effort to expand the Snowfill Dog Park north of Bozeman. The GVLT will turn the 1.25 mile one-trail loop into a 2 trail, figure eight design. Visitors to the park in the last week have been turned away, disappointed, while trucks delivered over a mile of gravel to build the new trail. But hopefully by this weekend, the park will be up and running with the new additions in place.

The park received two grants, one from the Bozeman City Parkland Improvement grant, and the other from the Montana Recreational Trails Program grant, allowing them to fund the expansion. The park will now be able to use a much larger portion of its 37-acre park. The new trail will follow utilize the outer edges of the park much better than the current trail.

The GVLT has focused their efforts on growing the park to handle its growing popularity. As one of only six off-leash dog parks in Bozeman, the Snowfill Dog Park provides dog owners a chance to let their dogs off leash without any worry of losing them. Because of other recent improvements made on the park, the GVLT does not foresee any more improvements to the park, unless its much farther down the road. Other dog parks have and will continue to see updates in the nearer future.

Bozeman real estate home buyers who are looking to purchase property in the north of town will be happy to know that they will have a place to walk their dog, no matter its size. Having a town that cares about the health and safety of the community’s pets is an under appreciated aspect of any city and one that Bozeman excels in. The park’s off-leash rules provide freedom and less worry to dog owners, while allowing the dogs to let loose all their extra energy.


Subdivisions Will Now Need Water Rights to Drill Home Wells

by Tim Hart

A county judge has put a stop to subdivisions unrestricted use of exempt wells in the state. Jeff Sherlock nullified a 1993 Department of Natural Resources and Conservation law that allowed developers of subdivisions to drill an unlimited number of small, home wells without needing to get a water rights permit. According to the 1993 law, so long as the wells were not connected, a subdivision could pump 1,000 acre-feet of water without a permit. Farmers and ranchers using the same amount of water had to apply for a water right or permit to use state water.

The fight over subdivision water rights began in 2009 when a few Billings ranches asked for a rule change, due to a lack of available water from nearby subdivision use. Under Montana law, anyone using state water needs a water right and people with the oldest water rights get priority. However, a loophole in the books allowed wells pumping less than 10 acre-feet a year to not need permits. When the law was drafted in the 70’s, there just weren’t that many of them. But recently, subdividers had used the law as a way to avoid either paying a city for their water, or attaining a water permit.

Senior water rights holders can ask other junior water rights holders to use less water when it is short, but they have no way to make exempt wells curtail their water use. But now, the judge has ruled against the law, making subdivisions hook up to city water or get their hands on a permit.

This law will have an impact on real estate development in Bozeman and Montana. How it impacts new subdivisions is yet to be seen, but homeowners moving into these subdivisions should be aware of the updated law.




Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 34