Real Estate Information Archive


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Job Growth Bounces Back in April

by Tim Hart

The US continued to add jobs in April—great news for the economy overall as well as the housing industry specifically. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported payroll employment expanded by 223,000 in April.

After a stagnant March, when only 85,000 jobs were added over the month, experts were worried that job growth had slowed. However, 266,000 jobs were also added in February 2015, suggesting that March may just have been a small blip on the job growth radar.

The unemployment rate fell from 5.5% in March down to 5.4% in April. In total, about 26,000 unemployed Americans found work in April.

The Federal Reserve will still need to see more evidence of an economic recovery before they move forward with raising interest rates—something they have expressed interest in doing sometime in Summer of 2015. Once the Fed raises interest rates, mortgage rates will have to follow suit.

For homebuyers, having low interest rates will generally make more people eligible to purchase a home. However, a full economic recovery will do so much more to in terms of providing financial wiggle room to Americans. Yes, homebuyers may pay higher interest rates in a strong economy, but their proportional inflow to outflow ratio of money will be far more favorable when they are being paid well and consistently. Job growth and low unemployment numbers are always good news for housing. With that being said, for anyone who can afford to buy a home and also has financial security, it will be hard to ever find interest rates so low in the future.




Renters across the United States have been struggling to deal with rising rental prices and now 1 in 4 uses at least half their income towards their rent and utility bills. Sometimes, this kind of statistic may be warped due to the high percentage of Americans living in sought after cities like New York and San Francisco. But it’s not just a few states that are pulling down the nation. Minus Alaska, South Dakota and Wyoming, every state had at least 20% of its residents using more than half their income to rent.

In census data taken by Enterprise Community Partners, the number of renters who felt some form of strain from growing home expenses has grown 26 percent since 2007. That’s 11.25 million additional home renters.

Income rates have not grown at the same pace as rental rates, making it one of the key factors driving rental affordability. Income for renters only grew at 11% in the last 5 years whereas rent has risen by 15% on average over the same time period.

Another factor has been that vacancy rates have been falling for rentals since 2013. At the start of 2015, rental vacancy was at 6.93%--far lower than the 10.9% vacancy rate seen in the third quarter of 2013. In Bozeman specifically, rental rates were effectively zero at the start of Fall semester for Montana State University in 2014.

Renting continues to be an issue for the United States, Montana and the Gallatin Valley alike. Hopefully, more than a few of these renters will be able to transition to homeownership, helping free up rentals for others while lowering the demand.




New and Existing Home Sales Increase

by Tim Hart

New home sales increased in February, rising to a seasonally adjusted pace of 539,000 homes sold this year. That number is up 7.8% from 500,000 in January.

Total home sales rose by 1.2% in February after a slow January start. Annually adjusted home sales for February 2015 are 4.7% higher compared to February 2014. Rising total home sale numbers reflect more movement in the market—a positive sign for the overall growth of the housing sector.

Home inventory dropped to 210,000, or a 4.7 month supply, after it had already dropped in January. Low home inventory continues to burden low-income buyers as home values rise. Lack of rentals across the nation have also made the demand for homes on the market even higher. However, low inventory will lead to more new home sales in the future as more builders will be willing to build, knowing there may be a buyer out there waiting for them.

Pending Home Sales Rise in January

by Tim Hart

According to the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales hit their highest level since August 2013—a great sign for the United States Housing Market. Pending sales have improved for 5 consecutive months.

Homes can only be marked as pending once all the contingencies in their purchase contract have been met.

The pending home sales index rose 1.7% in January to a total score of 104.2. This January’s pending sale numbers were 8.4% higher than those seen in 2014, showing growth over the past year.


For the Western region, the index climbed by 2.2% in January to 96.4. 11.4% more homes were pending in January 2015 compared to January 2014.

In similar news, pending transactions with payments coming from an investor or in all cash fell in January. In some senses, this may be positive news because it will create less competition for a traditional buyer with a mortgage loan. Buyers already facing a short supply of homes may be more competitive with their offers in the next months.




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In a report released by a local research group, Prospera Business Network, Bozeman is barely above the average cost of living of the national average in 2014. According to Prospera Business Network, Bozeman scored a 100.8 index cost of living score—or in other words, they were 0.8% above the average.

The data was drawn from an unweighted average from the first three quarters of 2014 from 281 participating towns and cities. The report took data from six categories—housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services. The report also broke down the cost of living by each category—something both home buyers and real estate agents may find more useful.

Housing: Bozeman scored an index score of 113.2, meaning houses cost 13.2% higher than the national average for 2014. This has both positive and negative elements. The negative is obvious—home prices are higher so it will cost a bit more to live in Bozeman than in other places. The positives lie in the implications of having higher prices. First, Bozeman has recovered faster from the housing recession than a majority of US towns. Second, Bozeman is attracting higher paying jobs that bring higher prices than the majority of the US. Third, Bozeman buyer demand has noticeably increased which has driven up home prices, showing just how marketable Bozeman has become. The outdoor aspects of Bozeman, its arts and culture and its reputation as an easy to live in town continue to draw interest from visitors.

The report released some interesting numbers as well. The average home price for a 2,400 square foot home on an 8,000 square foot lot in Bozeman was $353,777. The average monthly rent for a 950 square foot home in Bozeman was $917 a month. Those rent prices sure explain why renting has become so difficult in Bozeman.

Minus groceries and health care, Bozeman scored below the national average.

Transportation: 7.5% below national average

Utilities: 12% below national average

Misc. Goods and Services – 3.9% below national average.

Groceries – 2% above national average.

Health Care – 5.9% above national average.

Compared to some cities in the US, Bozeman is extremely affordable. Bozeman’s score of 100.8 looks pretty good compared to San Francisco, 303.9, and Manhattan, NY 439.5.

Here is a list of other cities in the survey that represented costs of living above and below Bozeman’s cost of living.

2014  Annual Average Cost of Living Index
  Composite Score Grocery Items Housing Utilities Transportation Health Goods & Services
San Francisco, CA 167.5 123.5 303.8 101.5 110.5 119 116.5
Grand Junction, CO 97.4 94.7 101.7 85.1 102.2 104.8 96
Twin Falls, ID 91.8 90.8 79 91.5 110.1 93.2 96.4
Bozeman, MT  100.8 102 113.2 88 92.5  105.9 96.1
Manhattan, NY 222.6 135.2 439.5 136.6 125.3 112.4 150.8
Portland, OR 125.1 114.4 160.9 90.8 111.7 114.3 116.2
Pierre, SD 102.3 111.3 113.5 89.9 91 95 97.7
Harlingen, TX 81.4 86.1 69.9 96.4 87.7 97.8 80
Cedar City, UT 89 98.7 76.1 86.5 96.6 88.3 94.1
Olympia, WA 101.1 102.7 99.2 83.6 113.5 122.2 100.9





Bozeman Market Update - Condos and Townhomes January 2015

by Tim Hart

This month, we will highlight townhome and condo sales through November in Bozeman. Here are a few stats for all Bozeman condos and townhomes:

  • Unit sales increased from 2013 to 2014 by 16.98%. (371 sold in 2013, 434 sold in 2014)
  • Dollar volume increased from 2013 to 2014 by 34.23% ($68,926,687 in 2013, $92,523,141 in 2014)
  • Average sales price also rose from 2013 to 2014 by 14.75% ($185,786 in 2013, $213,187 in 2014)

Summary –Bozeman has seen increases in townhomes and condos across the board. With more unit sales going at higher prices, Bozeman’s condo and townhome market is healthy and growing.

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.



Previously Owned Home Sales Rise in October

by Tim Hart

Recent numbers compiled by the National Association of Realtors have shown a rise in previously owned home sales for the month of October. Sales of these homes rose 1.5% to an annual rate of 5.26 million dollars. October was the second straight month where the annual rate trended up and its upward pace has not been this fast since September 2013.

The combination of improving inventory, stable price growth and low interest rates continue to make buying pre-owned homes easier. The average interest rate for the full month of October fell to 4.03%, the lowest it has been since June 2013. The average had also fallen from September, where the average rate had been 4.16%.

As the market has recovered, the frenetic pace in some real estate markets has slowed in rate. With more relaxed and longer term buyers coming to the market, properties have been staying on the market longer. October averaged 63 days compared to 56 in September. Yet, one third of homes sold in October were on the market for less than a month, showing that the market is still moving quickly in a lot of cases.


Renters Continue to Face Affordability Issues

by Tim Hart

Across the US, rent prices continue to rise. As demand for rental space rises, renters are finding themselves getting priced out of their markets. Bozeman has already seen its rental market all but disappear from the influx of MSU students, but as rent rates continue to rise and mortgage rates continue to fall, more and more people are finding themselves on the buy side of the “rent vs. buy” argument.

In the US, rental rates have risen by 6 percent over one year. In major metropolitan areas like San Francisco, Boston and Chicago, tenants are paying far more than 30 percent of their wages to rent. Many property management companies in the Bozeman area limit their tenants to have their rent be 30% of their wages and will almost never accept anybody going higher. However, when demand is high, its not hard to replace tenants, and many landlords are more than willing take on the risk of a renter splurging on their home choice.

In booming college towns, this trend is exasperated because of the high influx of students.  Having a lease expire just as college students return to school provides plenty of opportunity to update and raise lease rates, especially in the frantic summer months when thousands of students are looking for housing at once.

From a landlord’s perspective, the market lends itself toward investment purchases, with consistent renters and rising prices. But from the renter’s perspective, if they are anywhere near to buying, now may be the time to take the next step towards home ownership. By buying now, renters can get out from under the worry of being priced out of their market. Maybe 10 or 20 years down the line, they can rent the property out for prices they would have still been paying if they had rented. Either way, anyone considering buying a home as an alternative to rent, now may be the time to reevaluate finances and decide if the plunge may be worth it.



NYU Buys Two Buildings at $1,000 a Foot

by Tim Hart

If you thought real estate prices were soaring in the greater Bozeman area, at least you can hang your hat on the fact that New York City will always set the standard for high prices. New York University paid $157 million dollars for two buildings in downtown Manhattan in an effort to expand for their growing university.

708 Broadway and 404 Lafayette St. share approximately 151,000 square feet between them, a respectable expansion. However, in comparison to the price they paid for the two buildings, the cost per square foot comes out to more than $1,000. The properties were vacant at the time of the sale. NYU wants to use the building as a new fitness center and NYU believes the purchase will be cost effective over time.

Unfortunately, the buildings sales history reflects poorly on the school. The price they paid was unheard of right after the crash. These same buildings sold for 39 million in 2005, before the crash even occurred. The sellers were real estate investors, who clearly made a killing on their 2005 purchase. Real estate values have sky rocketed in Manhattan mainly due to the recent demand by offices and retail stores for downtown Manhattan locations. NYU’s timing for their purchase seems questionable, especially because they are an institution that has a buffer from the harsh economic effects of a market crash compared to individuals.

I always enjoy seeing real estate prices and purchases in major cities because they remind me to always stay within reason and educate myself about a market prior to making a major purchase.


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 26