How to Achieve the American Dream in Bozeman, MT

photos by Zach Hoffman  |   Sunday Nov. 1st, 2015

Everyone deserves a safe, clean place to live, and that it is often hard to accomplish in desirable areas. As a realtor, I know that “Location, Location, Location” sells homes a lot of the time, and Bozeman is a hot market; it’s on the map and in people’s minds for many reasons. I meet a lot of people at open houses on the weekends, and I find it interesting to gauge our community’s future based on these buyers and their interests. The topic of affordable housing often comes up in discussions, as well as the idea that realtors set the prices of homes. Affordable housing is a relative term; it all depends on the area, what people consider as entry-level housing, and the economy. Some people come here and think our housing is affordable, while others are horrified.

I would like to explain how homes are priced, what is driving our home prices to climb, and what you can do to become a part of owning the American Dream in our highly sought-after community. There are many articles out there addressing the affordable housing topic. I researched what has happened in parts of California where prices are the highest in the country, as well as what happens when the government imposes regulations affecting housing such as impact fees and inclusionary zoning. Do they help or make things worse?

Housing is currently less expensive and more attainable in the county versus the city. Living outside city limits is often more affordable because there are no impact fees, but there are more financing options such as Rural Development, or an RD loan. We have to be careful when mandating regulation instead of incentivizing options for affordable housing, as the costs are passed on either through increased sales prices or taxes; it’s not free. The building costs are expensive here. We have a small workforce and it is quite a distance for materials to be delivered. It is interesting to note that our two Mayoral candidates believe growth should occur closer to town, schools, jobs, and commerce, so that more residents are allowed the option of biking instead of driving.

There are currently 33 homes for sale in Bozeman under $200,000 and 20 in Belgrade. Also, there are 28 homes in Bozeman and 16 in Belgrade that people have agreed to buy. With 3% down, $6000, your current mortgage with taxes and insurance would be $1121.15 +/- depending on credit and current interest rate. With 3% down, or $6000, your current mortgage with taxes and insurance would be $1121.15 +/-.

Over the last few years, we have seen home prices rise and fall. Prices do this based on many factors such as the overall economy, interest rates, and supply and demand. Appraisers determine the market value of a home based on recent sales within the last 3-6 months. Prices go higher when a buyer and seller agree on a price that is higher than the appraised value of a house. Realtors work more like appraisers when they try to set realistic house prices.

 So, how does one go about purchasing a home in Bozeman? First, set your sights to a realistic level. Most of us have to start at the first floor and make significant sacrifices. I recently lived in a motorhome for six months that I bought for $6000. Then, I lived in a basement studio apartment for seven months and did some house-sitting, so that I could build a house. I also had four jobs consistently for three years; thank you Apple for inventing the iPhone to help me know where I was supposed to be! I sold the motorhome to another couple who is doing the same thing, and I got the idea from a builder who housed his family of four while he built their home. I built my home using as many materials as I could that were from sources of reuse such as Craigslist, Freecycle, and the ReStore in order to keep my building costs down. I think of not only my story, but my friends’ and colleagues’ stories of what they were willing to accept for housing before they bought their first home. One recently told me that she and her husband bought a mobile home as their first place. It had holes in the walls they couldn’t afford to fix, so they hung pictures over them. Another lived in a tent with her husband for a while until they saved enough to rent their first place. They both live in lovely homes now and have worked from the bottom up in jobs that helped them get to where they are now. Affordable housing does exist in Bozeman, it just may not be what you “want.” If you want it, you have to work really hard for it!

 Yes, it is expensive to live in Bozeman--food, gas, and housing can be higher here than in other areas. When the days are hard and really frustrating, look at the mountains and remember the huge value there is in living here; it really is special and many people want to be a part of it. Be resourceful, have a plan, be diligent, and you too can realize the American Dream in Bozeman, Montana. I found creative ways of saving money so that I could build my dream home in Bozeman. I can help you find creative ways, too. Call me, or visit with your favorite realtor and lender to find out what you need to do to accomplish this and how long it may take. I promise it will be worth it!    

Courtney King is a single mom and Realtor with Keller Williams Montana Realty. She spent 3 years working to be able to build a home for her and her son. She cleaned houses, did marketing for other realtors, did evaluations for banks and works with boys in a therapeutic environment in addition to working in real estate to realize home ownership after divorce. She actually still does all of that because cleaning is cheap exercise, bank evaluations help her understand the market and the boys give more to her than any therapy.