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5 Tips to Help Your Home Sell in the Winter

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

True or false- the best time to sell your home is typically during the spring and summer months— true. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t sell during the winter and still get a great price.

If you’re considering selling this winter, here are several tips to help you prepare your home:

  • Snow removal: In order to set foot inside your home, buyers have to get there first. Shovel the snow and use salt to melt any ice patches, and ensure that the path to the lockbox (if you’re using one) is clear for agents.
  • Curb appeal still matters: Even though people won’t be spending much time outside the home for several months yet, it’s still important to maintain the exterior— clean out the gutters and keep trees and shrubs trimmed to help buyers envision what your home will look like during warmer months.
  • Set the scene: Create a cozy feeling during showings— add blankets to the couch, light some candles and use tasteful Christmas décor if selling during the holidays. If you have a fireplace, use it to showcase both its ability to warm up a room and its added aesthetic to your home.
  • Light it up: Winter has a tendency to remove a lot of natural light. To combat this, open window treatments during the day and utilize lightbulbs and candles to create as much lighting as possible.
  • Keep on eye on the weather: Be prepared for delays due to bad weather— showings, inspections and even document transmissions can be delayed if a winter storm rolls in. 


Sometimes homes sell for more during the snowy months because there is less inventory to choose from, although the amount of time to sell is dependent on weather, which in turn is dependent on the number of showings you’ll get. Even though there are fewer buyers during the winter months, the buyers that ARE looking tend to be more motivated. While there are benefits to selling during the spring and summer, there are also benefits to selling during the winter as well. 


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Home Prices and Growth: What’s Going On?

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

What Does Growth Look Like Around the U.S.?

It comes as no surprise to many of us that owning a home can be an expensive venture. Factor in HOA fees, interior appliances/materials, miscellaneous maintenance costs and everything in between, and it’s easy to see why being a homeowner can appear to be daunting to some.

Although home prices grew 5.6% last year, this is only determined when comparing dollars to dollars. If this statistic is adjusted for inflation, this increase is still actually 15% below the high that occurred in 2006. Of the country’s 100 largest metro areas, only 41 grew to new peaks, even though 97 of these 100 metro areas did see overall home price growth. Overall, housing markets on both the West and East coasts have experienced inflation-adjusted home price increases of more than 40% in the last 16 years, while markets in the Midwest and South have generally experienced decreases.

However, growth has not been the same across all income levels. After Harvard researchers collected data for more than 9,000 ZIP codes across the country, most home prices in all income brackets were LOWER than their pre-2006 peaks. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Low-income areas: 13.7% lower
  • Moderate-income areas: 6.5% lower
  • High-income areas: 3.3% lower

Because of the post-recession change in home prices, many homeowners were able to emerge from underwater, a term indicating that the value of a home is below or under its mortgage amount. In 2011, the number of underwater homeowners topped out at 12.1 million; by the end of 2016, that number was down to 3.2 million.

                   

Source: PalmBeachPost.com

What About Growth in and Around Bozeman?

Bozeman remains one of the fastest growing small towns in the country, with a population growth rate of 4.6%. Home prices across the state currently exceed pre-2006 levels by 10%.

When comparing median sales prices between Bozeman, Belgrade and other Bozeman areas, home prices are still steadily on the rise in all 3 areas.

 

Median Sales Prices (2011-2017)

This data was pulled Big Sky Country MLS 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.

 

Although median sales prices are continually rising, the good news is that the median sale price is often lower than the median original asking price: 

This data was pulled Big Sky Country MLS 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.

 

As for the country as a whole, Freddie Mac predicts an overall home price increase of 4.9% in 2018. While that may seem like quite a jump, this prediction is still lower than the 6.3% growth we’ve seen so far this year.  Much like the prediction for 2017, 2018’s prediction also suggests continued economic growth of around 2%, steady job gains and relatively low mortgage rates. 


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The Annie and Oak Street Issues: Bozeman’s Second High School Faces New Challenges

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

While the overall design for Bozeman’s 2nd high school has been approved, the actual design drawings will be completed sometime this month, at which time the School Board will take its final vote on the design. Previously, we had learned that the design was modern and sleek, with elements of brickwork, black metal cladding and an all-glass entryway incorporated into the plans. Only small modifications to this design have been made by Building Committee members, which include using traditional red brickwork rather than the originally proposed grey, and using white instead of purple for the triangle outside the main entry.

The Annie Street Issue

City staff members are in favor of the school district building Annie Street east-west, which would cut through the middle of the property where the high school will be constructed. This expense is estimated at $800,000, and would require students to cross a city street in order to reach the playing fields. While the school conducted a traffic study and found that Annie isn’t a heavily used street, the city feels as though building this street is needed for the transportation system.

The Oak Street Issue

While the school had discussed using a portion of the budget to build a soccer field and parking lot on the north side of Oak (across the street from the new school), designers have other plans— building a pedestrian tunnel under Oak Street AND constructing an overpass over the tunnel.

The land north of Oak is city-owned, which means that the plans for a field and parking lot would be a collaborative project with the city’s plans to develop a sports complex. Creating both a tunnel and overpass, while great for ensuring pedestrian safety, present the challenge of meeting the budget.

The goal budget is between $76 million and $78 million, the current design is around $87 million, and once site work, streets and the possible tunnel are factored in, the entire project will cost $93 million.

Future Location of Second High School/Sports Complex

Only Time Will Tell

The Annie Street issue will be discussed as soon as next week, although we aren’t sure when we’ll find out whether the tunnel and overpass project will move forward. Revisiting the budget and cutting costs will likely need to happen before any major decisions are made. Sometime after the new year, however, we can expect to find out more about the new school’s colors, logo and mascot.


Related Articles:

Design Plans for Bozeman's 2nd High School in the Works

Belgrade Expands and Prepares for Future Growth

Long-Debated Black-Olive Project Gets Approved by City Commissioners

Long-Debated Black-Olive Project Gets Approved By City Commissioners

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

In September of 2016, the Black-Olive project was first presented to Bozeman City Commissioners as a 5-story building that would feature 56 apartments, as well as commercial business space on the ground floor and 37 on-site parking spaces. Many neighboring residents spoke out at both public meetings and on Facebook’s “Save Bozeman” page to express their concerns that the contemporary building would ruin Bozeman’s small-town charm and negatively impact street parking.

On April 11th of this year, this proposal was denied with a 4-1 vote, although it was stated that developer Andy Holloran intended to modify the design and resubmit his proposal for later review. Fast forward to last week— the Black-Olive development was APPROVED after more than a year of discussions, meetings and revised design plans, ironically with a 4-1 vote. The project will include demolition of the two-story building currently located at 202 S. Black Ave.

What Else?

The new design has been modified to feature 66 bedrooms within 47 apartments, while providing 40 parking spaces for those residents.  Although some commissioners and citizens were still against the project, stating that the building was too big and that parking constraints were already an issue, others disagreed. Commissioners I-Ho Pomeroy and Jeff Krauss support the idea of creating more housing opportunities downtown, which would include growth upward instead of outward.

What Now?

Although the project has been approved, Holloran will be required to make minor changes to the building’s top floor to scale back its elevation. After finishing the design to accommodate this amendment and obtaining both a building and demolition permit, Holloran expects to break ground sometime this spring. 

Future Location of Black-Olive Project

New Local Businesses Contribute to Bozeman’s Rapid Growth

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Bozeman continues to grow, and we aren’t just talking about its population and endless road expansions all over town— new local businesses have been popping up all over town; Evergreen Clothing, Ekam Yoga, Stuffed Crepes and Waffles and Backcountry Burger Bar are just a few of the new businesses that have opened this year. But 2017 isn’t over yet— a new candy shop, new brewery and new diner are either slated to open their doors by year’s end, or have recently done so.

For Those With a Sweet Tooth…

Owner Kimberlee Greenough started Hush Salon in 2011 and has worked as a personal trainer for years, and is now pursuing a lifelong dream of owning her own candy shop. Set to open at the end of October, The Candy Jar will feature more than 500 types of chocolates, gummy candies and other classic candies, as well as a soda fountain and ice cream bar with Wilcoxsin’s and Montana-made syrups. The Candy Jar will be located near Wasabi on West Oak, and an open house on Halloween is currently in the works.

For Those Who Like Locally Crafted Beers…

If candy isn’t your thing, and craft beers are, you’re in luck. Mountains Walking Brewery and Pub opened in late September. Owner Gustav Dose grew up in both Taiwan and Japan, and has studied brewing around the world. His goal with this brewery was to make beers that can’t be made anywhere but Bozeman, taking into account factors such as our climate, altitude and native yeasts. The tap list changes daily, and will still feature familiar favorites in addition to rare finds. Mountains Walking is located on Plum Street on the east end of town.

For Those Who Appreciate Locally Grown Foods…

Opened in September by husband and wife duo Charley Graham and Lauren Reich, Little Star Diner has a menu that changes frequently, as most of the restaurant’s produce is grown by Reich. Depending on the time of year, and with Montana’s short growing season, you may find yourself faced with new menu options based on what’s available at that time. Reich has been growing produce for restaurants since 2009 and Graham was most recently a chef at Blackbird Kitchen. The couple is confident that by combining their culinary experience with the farm-to-table concept, Little Star Diner will soon become a local favorite in town. 

 

New Local Businesses in Bozeman​

Big Sky Town Center: Expansion & Affordable Housing Update

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

In July, Big Sky developers and CrossHarbor Capital Partners (the investment firm involved in Big Sky’s development) announced the opening of a handful of new businesses, as well as the groundbreaking of the first chain hotel in the area. The Wilson Hotel, a Marriott Residence Inn, is being constructed to the east of the newly built Town Center and will feature 129 rooms, a full-service restaurant and a fitness center/pool area.

Fast forward a few months to today— Lone Mountain Land Company (LMLC) has announced construction on another new building in the Town Center—the Plaza Lofts development. It will house five new businesses, including a sushi restaurant, wine bar and a boutique shop, as well as 22 apartments with one-bedroom, two-bedroom and 4-bedroom floorplans. The completion date for this project is set at the start of the 2018 ski season, around the same time as the above-mentioned hotel.

Artist's Rendition of the Plaza Lofts development

Source: Bechtle Architects & Jim Collins

Is Affordable Housing Still an Issue?

Currently, the affordable units that are being planned for future construction are capped at $215,000 for a two-bedroom and $270,000 for a three-bedroom. Future owners will also be required to meet certain criteria, including a cap on income and proof that the unit will be their primary place of residence.

A Speedbump in the Road

In June, the group leading the effort to develop more affordable housing in the area (Big Sky Community Housing Trust) withdrew its application for $1 million in resort tax appropriations. Earlier this year in March, the Gallatin County Commission rejected the group’s plat proposal because certain variances made the project unsafe. Other affordable housing proposals that included raising the resort tax (currently at 3%) were also turned down at the Montana Legislature.

The group will be returning to the County Commission sometime this month for a revised plat hearing, and director Brian Guyer stresses to the Big Sky community that affordable housing is still a top priority, and the application withdrawal is just a speedbump in the road.

Despite overall frustrations and concerns regarding the affordable housing issue, directors and developers alike are excited about the continual growth in Big Sky. With more visitors coming to the area with every passing year, the need to continually build and expand the community to accommodate both newcomers and current residents is at the forefront of city leaders’ minds. 

Design Plans for Bozeman’s 2nd High School in the Works

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

We already know that Bozeman is quickly growing, and it comes as no surprise to anyone in the area that the high school is becoming overcrowded— just last year nearly 2,000 students were enrolled. With a capacity of 2,400 and a predicted enrollment of 2,700 by 2023, it only makes sense that plans for a 2nd high school are currently underway.

Back in February of 2016, several different scenarios for how to solve this problem were presented, a few of which included ideas for staying on Main Street by expanding the current building. However, it has been decided that the best course of action is to construct a 2nd high school, currently planned to be built on a 57-acre plot bordered by Durston & Cottonwood roads, Flanders Mill and West Oak Street.

What Else?

The latest cost estimate for this project is around $83 million, though it is expected to shrink since it is still in the design phase. The entire budget for the school is targeted at $94 million, with more than $10 million going toward equipment, fixtures and furniture. Some of these costs will also be used to renovate the existing high school to keep up with its rapid growth. CTA Architects Engineers, the firm working on developing the new school, will present its final design plan to the Bozeman School Board this December.

The design that was shown last week is modern and sleek, with some brickwork on the three-story classroom building to channel historic Main Street. Extensive black metal cladding, a wedge-shaped roof, all-glass entry and a two-story, stair-like tiered seating structure are all also currently included in the design plans, though these features are subject to change.

Current Design For 2nd High School

Source: CTA Architects Engineers

It’s Green, Too?

The school will also be constructed to environmental standards specifically tailored to schools instead of LEED building standards, which is the most widely used green building system in the world. Though using CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools standard) will run about $10,000 less than LEED, the school chose these standards because it has many of the same features and is more geared toward K-12 schools.

The design report  that was approved by the school board earlier this month contains a CHPS checklist (pages 25 and 118), which demonstrates how the new school will aim to earn 125 environmental points. Many of these points will be earned for its energy efficiency, acoustics, water use regulation and heating system, in addition to sharing the building with other community groups after school.

Pros and Cons

Though we aren’t sure yet when construction will begin, the new school would create more opportunities for students to join sports teams and enroll in special classes like AP and foreign languages.  On the other hand, additional costs for building upkeep, hiring staff and another principal, and funding for double the number of sports teams is generating concerns from both parents and the School Board. Though there are still many details to be worked out over the coming years, one thing is for certain— Bozeman is still rapidly growing, and addressing the soon-to-be overcrowded high school now rather than down the road seems to be the best course of action.


Related Articles: 

Belgrade Expands and Prepares For Future Growth

Bozeman Continues to Grow With New Proposed Airport Expansion

Bozeman Ranks Second as the Fastest Growing Small Town in America

Norway-based Company Develops Smart Home Technology to Monitor Radon Levels

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Did you know that radon causes more deaths from lung cancer every year than both carbon monoxide and house fires combined? The scariest part is that you don’t have to travel far for radon to affect you— it could start in your own home. In fact, recent surveys have shown that 1 in 5 homes in the US have elevated radon levels.

What Is Radon?

Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that occurs naturally in soil. It can be released from rock, soil and water, and when it decays, solid particles begin to form and can cling to water molecules, dust, or even directly to lung tissue.

When the interior of a home is warmer than outside (most nights year-round), the home draws soil gas out of the ground to replace lost air that escaped out of the top, thus increasing overall radon levels. While radon detectors have been around for years, the tests can take days to come back from the lab and since daily radon levels tend to fluctuate, the tests aren’t always the most accurate.

New Technology On the Horizon

Airthings, a Norway-based company, has developed the Airthings Wave, which utilizes digital sensors and smart home technology to measure a home’s radon levels over an extended period of time, rather than just a moment in time. Since the system is all electronic, homeowners are now able to monitor radon levels 24/7. The indicator light on the device will either turn green (healthy levels), yellow (temporary high) or red (unhealthy levels).

Source: https://airthings.com/wave/

Installation is easy— simply use standard AA batteries and a single screw to attach it to a wall or ceiling. Homeowners can also check radon levels and receive notifications through a free app that keeps track of both short and long term data. If radon levels are detected as being dangerous for more than 48 hours, the app will notify the homeowner and recommend next steps.

Experts recommend hiring a contractor to implement a radon reduction system if radon levels are high. A reduction system will reduce levels by up to 99%. The cost for installing this system typically ranges anywhere from $800 to $1,200, though it will usually cost more if the home has a completely finished lower level or a crawl space. Additionally, the Airthings Wave retails on their website for $199 and arrives at your doorstep within one month of ordering.

It can take years for those exposed to radon to begin showing symptoms. While there are many controversies about radon levels in homes and whether they’re actually linked to increased cancer risks, the old saying “better safe than sorry” may carry some weight for those homeowners who want to take precautions and don’t want to risk it. 


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Belgrade Expands and Prepares for Future Growth

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

In 2010, Belgrade had around 7,389 residents; as of last year, that number has grown to 8,254— a 10.5% population increase in just six years, and probably even more now that we’re in the 3rd quarter of 2017. Many of these residents were priced out of the market when looking to purchase a home in Bozeman city limits.

In a report released by Prospera Business Network, the average price for a 2,400 square-foot home in Bozeman on an 8,000 square-foot lot was $367,241. In Belgrade, the average price for a single-family home is $291,382. At the beginning of the summer, the price was about $260,000.

What Preparations Are Being Made For This Growth?

Plans to improve downtown, alleviate the city’s transportation problems and buy more land to build additional schools are already underway.

The Belgrade City Council is creating a special tax district downtown, with its purpose being to produce a new revenue stream to finance this project (among other infrastructure upgrades), rather than asking residents to borrow the money. The council hopes that after improvements are made, new businesses will be attracted to the area. Here are the 5 areas downtown that need the most improvement:

  1. Poorly designed parking lots
  2. Unsafe conditions
  3. Deteriorating buildings
  4. Deteriorating infrastructure
  5. Defective street layouts

As far as starting to fix current traffic problems, the city of Belgrade is working with the Montana Department of Transportation. So far, a website has been developed to gather comments on road conditions from drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. All input will be taken into consideration when deciding where and how to begin solving this problem.

Belgrade High School set an enrollment record this year with 917 students, and the population for the whole school district this year is 3,406— 5% more than last year. The school district is now looking to purchase anywhere from 12 to 200 acres to build two possible new schools, while still having plenty of space for sports practices and games.

Most phases of these plans are expected to take between 6 and 7 years until completion. With Belgrade expanding so quickly, it only makes sense that the city council is already preparing not only for future growth, but the current population and its present needs.


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New Short-Term Rental Rules Adopted In Bozeman City Limits

New Short-Term Rental Rules Adopted in Bozeman City Limits

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Bozeman City Commissioners adopted an ordinance on September 11th that includes new rules and regulations for the estimated 500-550 short-term rentals in Bozeman through platforms including Airbnb, VRBO and Homeaway. A short-term rental (STR) is defined as the rental of rooms or dwellings to paying guests anywhere from 1 to 29 days.

What’s the Gist?

This ordinance was adopted with a 3-2 vote by city commissioners—commissioners also passed the new fees that homeowners will pay in order to continue using their property as an STR. There is now an annual $250 registration fee, in addition to a one-time fire inspection fee of $225. In addition, some homeowners may find themselves paying an administrative conditional use permit of $1,508. Commissioner Chris Mehl states that there may be adjustments to these fees in the future, as the city commissioners will have the chance to look at and assess the fees every year.

What Else?

The new fees will be used to balance the program’s cost— they will cover resources needed to process applications, respond to complaints, monitor regulations and inspect rentals. Many older homes that are being used as short-term rentals do not have the same fire-safety features that newer homes have.

While some are concerned that the new mandatory fees will have a negative impact on homeowners who use their properties as short-term rentals in order to generate additional income, Mayor Carson Taylor supports the fee increases because they are important to overall public safety.

Additionally, the new ordinance will forbid STRs that aren’t owner-occupied at any time within Bozeman’s residential districts. In this case, owner-occupied indicates that the owner occupies the dwelling for more than 50% of the calendar year. People who have been operating in these areas prior to January 1st will have the option to be grandfathered in.

When Does This All Start?

These rules will go into effect starting December 1st, and once the ordinance is passed (30 days from September 11th), homeowners will be given a 60-day grace period to meet compliance.

What makes Bozeman both unique and a desirable place to live all comes down to quality—quality of the community, quality of housing and ultimately the quality of the people who live and work here. The intended purpose of this ordinance, while seen as frustrating and expensive to some homeowners, may help contribute to the quality of life that is so valued here in Bozeman, and continue to make living and visiting here so enjoyable.

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