Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 35

New Subsidized Housing to Help Ease Rental Numbers

by Tim Hart

A new, 47-unit development will be coming to the west end of Bozeman to help alleviate the lack of rentable homes in Bozeman. The new apartment complex will be subsidized in order to keep rental rates affordable for low-income residents. The complex will cost 10 million dollars to build, but almost 6.6 million will be funded in part by federal tax credits awarded to the city from the Montana Board of Housing. The project will be a shared effort between the Human Resources Development Council, they City of Bozeman and Summit Housing group, a Missoula based developer.

The subsidies should help reduce the amount of borrowed capital, making it possible for the apartment complex to lower rent rates. $659,000 will be awarded to the project every year for 10 years. The maximum rental price for a two bedroom unit will be $700 a month. The apartments should be finalized by September, just in time for the inevitable student rush that follows the beginning of the semester.

More affordable housing for rent should help alleviate the current rental ‘fill-up’ in Bozeman. As the rental market becomes less volatile, the buying and selling of homes often follows suit. As homeowners essentially “set the tone” for rental prices in the area, the highs and lows of a rental market can often reveal how the pendulum of the housing market is swinging. Per usual, sustained, consistent growth is ideal, and the addition of more rentals in the area may help make the current growth in Bozeman even more consistent.



BHS Honored for High AP Exam Scores

by Tim Hart

Bozeman High School has been honored as one of 547 school districts in both the US and Canada for student performance in Advanced Placement Exams. Advanced Placement (AP) courses are college level courses, given to high achieving high school students. The courses use college-level textbooks and have national exams that if students pass, can sometimes offer college credit. The students at Bozeman High School performed so well in these national exams, they were honored this week for their performance.

The Bozeman High School District was the only school district to win in the state of Montana. Bozeman’s pass rate was 86.3% in 2013. To be honored, schools had to have 70% of their class pass. In order to pass, students need to earn a score of 3 or higher (out of 5).

Since 2012, BHS has increased the number of students taking AP classes. From 2013 to 2014, the number has jumped from 872 tests taken, to over 1,000. Currently BHS offers 17 AP classes and the school holds a lot of pride around the availability of these classes to all its students. Many schools limit AP classes to only their best and brightest. In most cases, they don’t allow other students into these classes, in order to win awards like the one mentioned today. Bozeman, however, allows all students, no matter their grades in normal classes, to enroll in AP classes. And yet the school continues to perform alongside schools that only allow their smartest students to attempt Advanced Placement courses.

The Bozeman School District should be applauded for its continued efforts to improve the education and lives of its students. Per usual, the school leans towards the inclusion of all in any of their educational programs. High student performance, great new programs, and continued work to improve the school system should continue to attract new families to Bozeman.


City of Bozeman Helps Businesses Save Money and Energy

by Tim Hart

The City of Bozeman will help businesses keep the cold out and the warm in while trying to save everyone a dollar along the way. The City of Bozeman Energy Project is a new program designed to help businesses lower their utility costs. The project offers businesses a free energy audit from Northwestern Energy. During the audit, NW Energy goes over the energy issues currently present in the business but they also offer strategies to bring down energy use. If the city’s businesses reduced their energy output by 10%, it would cumulatively save $2.6 million a year.

It’s great to see Bozeman focus on reducing its carbon footprint and creating a more efficient city. But it doesn’t stop there folks! Why stop at commercial buildings when we could apply these practices to residential real estate as well? Although it will not be free, performing an energy audit on your home can also help you create a more efficient household. Is heating the hot tub affordable in the winter? Are you insulating your home sufficiently? An energy audit can help answer those questions and help save you money on your utility bill.

The City of Bozeman Energy Project has already found that many businesses have outdated lighting. Lighting retrofits can save a lot of energy and adding new efficient bulbs can really add up over time. These rules also apply to the home. Make sure to walk through your home and see if you are missing any easy energy/money savers.



Million Dollar Home Sales Increasing

by Tim Hart

Over the 2014 year in the United States, the number of 1 million dollar plus home sales rose by 8 percent. Million dollar and up homes have seen a much faster recovery than any other price point. In fact, sales for million dollar and up homes are now almost comparable to prices seen during the housing peak in 2007.

Housing analysts believe one reason why the surge has occurred has been the increase in jumbo loans being given to high priced buyers. A jumbo loan is a loan that exceeds $417,000, or in very high priced areas, $625,000. Total dollar volume for jumbo lending has grown to 20% of the total of all home loans. Jumbo loaning hasn’t been this popular since 2002.

In general, most of these million dollar homes are often sold in very small geographical areas. In many cases, the location actually creates the million dollar home. For example, the coast of Washington state has many million dollar plus homes, but it is on the waterfront, in the heart of Seattle, where even the most humble of homes can rise above a million. Big Sky, in a way, follows a similar pattern but is not at such high volumes.

Rising sales and rising prices at any price level is good news. Hopefully, the rise in million dollar home sales is a preview for what may be coming at lower price points.




New Solar Loan Pays off Debt with the Sun

by Tim Hart

Homeowners tired of paying high utility bills may have hope on the horizon for lower power costs. Solar city, a major solar provider in the United States, has implemented a new solar loan program, allowing its clients to pay off the cost of their solar equipment with the energy they produce from their home.

Yes, solar power has been around for a decently long period of time, so why is this system different from all the other models from other solar companies? Well, Solar City really hit the crux of the solar issue—its high upfront costs compared to traditional utilities. For a long period of time, homeowners needed to buy every piece of equipment, install and permit them. According to, a solar leasing company, an owner can expect to pay anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 for panels, $1,000 to $3,000 for an inverter, $800 to $2,000 for mounting hardware, $2,000 to $4,000 to install them, and around $2,500 dollars or more for additional fees and permits. If a homeowner wanted the highest quality panels, with all the bells and whistles, he/she may expect to pay up to $23,500 for their new solar system.

Of course, with those kind of costs, not many people would be “solar panel eligible.” In order to get more customers through the door, solar companies offered a solar loan program called a power purchase agreement. In this agreement, home owners are provided all the equipment necessary with no cost to them. In exchange, they pay the company money for the power produced from their panels, just like they would pay a standard power company. Because the power is coming from their own home, the rate is markedly lower than standard electricity rates. Unfortunately, anyone within this pay structure will never own the panels placed on their own homes and they will have to pay a solar company for the power their own home is producing.

But now, Solar City is offering a new loan program, that shifts ownership of the equipment over to the buyer, under a 30-year loan program.  A homeowner pays a fixed monthly rate (eerily similar to a 30-year fixed rate mortgage on a home, but a lot cheaper!) and that money pays off the remaining principal and 4.5% interest rate. After the loan is up, they now own the solar panels and have access to a free source of energy that can drastically lower their costs. Homes that produce extra solar power can even see lower rates if Solar City sells the excess power from their home to another.

More often than not, even while paying off the loan, homeowners will still pay less than they would in a power purchase agreement and one day, they will own the panels. Customers can also pay off a piece or all of the remaining balance on their panels to lower their monthly costs. Anyone hoping for loan approval will need a 680 credit score.

Solar city hopes to explode an already growing Solar market. Over the first half of 2014, 2,700 megawatts were produced from residential homes, compared to only 1,144 megawatts produced in the same period of 2013. States that haven’t offered any benefits for solar power have put roadblocks in the way for national solar expansion, but with Solar City’s new loan program they now may be competitive. In the first year, customers may see their utility costs rise, but once they can write off the 30% federal tax credit in the following years, solar usually becomes the cheaper option.

The new solar loan program does have one drawback, or at least something to note. Solar panels have yet to be tested over a 30 year period and by loan’s end they may not be productive anymore. Because nobody really has data on solar panels going thirty years back, it’s very hard to know the full life span of solar panels. In general, solar panels weaken as they age, so after thirty years, customers may have to cross their fingers that the panels they now “officially” own are operational. However, if the loan is less than what they would have paid in utilities anyways, concerns over panel functionality thirty years down the line may be a null point.

Any homeowner looking to lower their utility costs should keep their eyes and ears open for local solar options. Currently, solar city is only offering their loan program to states that already have an established solar clientele, but they plan on expanding into most of the United States eventually.


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.


Bozeman Purchases More Chrome Books for Students

by Tim Hart

Bozeman’s school computers just got a little more reflective as educators have made the switch to Chrome (yes, I know they aren’t actually chrome but I couldn’t help myself). Bozeman elementary schools will receive 330 new Chrome books for their students following its approval from the Bozeman School Board on Tuesday. Board members voted 7-0 to spend $111,061 on the new computers with funds from the technology property tax levy.

The Bozeman School District has set a goal to have at least 1 set of Chrome Books for every 4th and 5th grade class in every elementary school. Although, they haven’t reached that goal, the Board got 330 computers closer.

Ideally, teachers will no longer have to schedule computer time anymore, making it much easier to teach technology in the classroom. Students have been learning to write on computers, but most teachers believe kids need all the practice they can get to improve their keyboarding skills. Teachers also hope that students with disabilities such as ADD might find a potential outlet to better learn.

Schools need to continue to stay up to date on technology in order to properly educate children in technology. Its great to see Bozeman’s continued focus in providing its schools with all the tools they need to provide quality education to its students.



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.


New Construction Hits Six Year High

by Tim Hart

The annual sale rate for new, single-family residences rose to a six year high, thanks to solid real estate sales in September. Sales increased 0.2% and adjusted the annual rate to 467,000 new units sold in 2014. The annual rate has not been that high since July of 2008. The rate had a chance to be even higher, but August real estate sales were also revised from 504,000 units down to 466,000, lowering the average.

Compared to September of 2013, sales of new single-family homes went up seventeen percent. Now, coupled with the 30 year fixed rate mortgage falling to its lowest level since June 2013, many experts expect to see the rate get even higher by the end of the year. Slow wage growth continues to hold back the housing market a little bit, but even previously owned single-family homes found their highest sales for 2014 in September as well. At the current sales pace, it would take 5.3 months to clear the supply of new real estate built in September. In general, a six month supply is considered an ideal balance between supply and demand, implying volatility still exists in the current market.

But, as builders’ and developers' confidence continue to grow, they will continue buying more land and building more houses. A lot of times that can lead to lower prices for new home buyers. Compared to September 2013, the median new home price in September 2014 fell 4 percent, down to 259,000 dollars. Now may be the time for buyers looking for a new home to take advantage of real estate competition to find a great deal on a brand new home.



New 15 year Mortgage with No Down Payment Unveiled

by Tim Hart

A non-profit company is testing a new mortgage idea that could impact mortgages from here on out. The company is offering low to moderate income home buyers a 15 year mortgage with little to no money down. The loan, called the Wealth Building Home Loan, differs from a traditional 30 year fixed rate loan because income is weighed much more heavily than in a traditional loan. The WHBL gives a generous credit requirement and allows buyers to build their equity much faster than a standard mortgage.

But the loan truly differs from a standard loan because it focuses on paying off the principal first, not the interest. According to its creators, in the first three years 77% of each monthly mortgage payment pays off the principal, creating huge amounts of equity for home owners looking to sell in a short period of time. For a standard 30 year loan, in those years 68% of the payment goes towards paying the interest, leaving buyers with little equity comparatively.

Now obviously, there has to be some take to the give in this loan. Due to its short term and focus on principal, a WBHL will always have higher monthly payments than a standard mortgage. But the return on equity and 15 years less of monthly payments may be a worthy trade off for higher payments initially. The WBHL will have its first test run in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was chosen as the initial test market.

More recent articles on mortgages:

Mortgage Rates Below 4%

Wealthy Paying Lower Mortgage Rates

Americans Overpaying for Mortgages?



Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 35