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Table of Contents Rooftop revolution. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Tiny houses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 The road to efficiency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Twenty weekend projects for under $20 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Expert essay: Know your forester . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Expert essay: Pet peeves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Expert essay: Settling down. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Expert essay: Time to redesign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 2014 Missoula housing report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Cover design by Kou Moua
Mailing address: P.O. Box 8275 Missoula, MT 59807 Street address: 317 S. Orange St. Missoula, MT 59801 photo by Catrhrine L. Walters
Phone number: 406-543-6609 Fax number: 406-543-4367 E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Come visit our showroom. We look forward to serving you. At Direct Source, we offer our clients a custom-made cabinet with Huntwood Cabinets from Liberty Lake, Washington; a full-array of appliances from Whirlpool and from Viking Range Corp.; as well as countertops fabricated and installed by local artisans. Our designers have 80 years of experience to guide you through your construction or remodel project.
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From our forests, to your home
Sierra Pacific is a vertically-integrated company. We own the forestland and manage it for sustainable growth. We process the wood in our sawmill. We convert the shop grade lumber from our sawmills to moulding and millwork (including window and door components) in our millwork facilities. We assemble the components from our millwork plants into top quality wood windows and doors in our window assembly plants.
www.sierrapacificwindows.com (406) 728-6142
West Broadway Design Center | 3501 W. Broadway | Missoula, MT
westbroadwaydesigncenter.com Homesteader 2014
hree stories above North First Street, atop Missoula’s Gold Dust Apartments, corn, raspberries and garlic sprout from rectangular garden beds made of corrugated steel. The living roof, as it’s called, offers a sweeping view of the Missoula Valley and the opportunity for Gold Dust residents to grow their own food in a distinctly urban environment. “We get a lot of tomatoes, sunflowers,” says building manager, Matthew Reed, motioning his hand to the east. In addition to providing a natural refuge for Gold Dust residents, the garden also absorbs stormwater, buffers noise and insulates the building, helping keep it cool during western Montana’s warmest months. “It’s very low maintenance,” Reed says. “The idea is, it’s an organic system.” This garden marks a local revival of a trend that, though relatively uncommon today, was a frequent feature during ancient times. As early as 1250 BC, northern Europeans lived in turf-topped houses. Nordic migrants arriving from places such as Scandinavia and Iceland in the ninth century brought the technique with them. They used timber and stone to construct buildings, and harvested grass and sod to insulate exterior roofs and walls. The practice continues in Iceland today. But modern builders for the most part didn’t begin embracing green roofs until the 1960s, when European architects and scientists espoused them as a means to ease strain on taxed municipal sewer systems by absorbing stormwater. Green roofs, in contrast with traditional gravel roofs, also absorb the sun’s energy and thereby naturally reduce heat generated from the byproducts of urbanization. Armed with this knowledge, Germany has led the green roof movement for the past five decades. According to data compiled by Temple University’s School of Environmental Design, 12 percent of all flat roofs in Germany are green. That’s largely because lawmakers there have crafted an array of incentives and regulations to encourage them.
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In the United States, the practice is “only now taking root. According to a survey conducted by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, an association of living roof businesses, the industry in North America between 2011 and 2012 grew by 24 percent, from 4.6 million square feet in 2011 to nearly 5.6 million square feet in 2012. In the United States, Washington D.C. stands out for the more than 1.2 million square feet of green roof applications installed there in 2012, making it the leader among all American metropolitan regions. Coming in second is Chicago, followed by New York City. All three of those municipalities offer incentives or tax abatement to property owners who install green roofs. In western Montana, green roofs are still “few and far between,” says Nate Lengacher, who grows mats of shallow-rooted flowering plants, mosses and succulents on his Stevensville property for living roof applications. For $10 per square foot, locals can purchase from Lengacher’s business, Rocky Mountain Region LLC, the five layers of roofing required to construct what the industry 8
refers to as an “extensive” living roof application. Lengacher says it’s lightweight and “made for minimal beefing up of the structure,” making it most appropriate for a residential application. Contrasted to the deeper-rooted or “intensive” display at the Gold Dust, the lightweight living roof isn’t suited for growing
asphalt shingles must be removed. Applications are best suited to roofs that aren’t too steep, up to what the industry refers to as an 8-12. (The typical Missoula roof ranges somewhere between a 6-12 to a 12-12 pitch, with 12-12 being the steepest). Lengacher estimates that hiring a contractor to install the layers, including a waterproofing membrane, a growing medium and the living layer, will cost an additional $4 per square foot. Lengacher acknowledges that the installation costs may seem daunting to the average homeowner. But he says that it’s important to recognize that a living roof will outlast the typical shingled style by as much as 100 years. “That’s where the real cost savings over the lifetime of the roof come in,” he says. He adds that this kind of project is something that a photo courtesy of Homeword Inc. handy homeowner, one with a basic knowledge of roofing food. It does, however, offer a striking display and gardening, can accomplish after doing a of flowering plants. bit of research. And Lengacher says he’s “You get whites, purples, reds, yellows,” happy to meet with locals who want to tackle Lengacher says. “And they flower different an installation on their own. times of year, so the color palette is pretty “We’re happy to consult with people,” he dramatic…In June through July, there’s says. “The more people who are aware that this honey bees and a number of different bird is an option—that it’s something good for the species.” environment and just the aesthetics of their livPrior to installing an extensive living roof, ing space—is better for us.” B
Nestled in the middle of a pine-studded hillside in Potomac sits a 138-squarefoot cabin made of reclaimed fir, pine and spruce. On a frosty February afternoon, cabin builder Charles Finn stands in a pocket of sun that streams through a westfacing window as he explains what draws him to create tiny houses. In addition to being a craftsman, Finn is a writer. At first it was a desire to keep expenses low and devote more time to literary pursuits that prompted him to downsize. “I didn’t want to be working a 9-to-5 job just to pay my rent and utilities,” Finn says. “So, I found myself moving to these smaller and smallee places.” After he built his first small cabin in 2002, visitors were impressed by its simplicity and style and encouraged him to build more of them. Since then, Finn’s crafted nine of the tiny
houses, selling them to locals who, like him, feel compelled to buck an American trend marked by ballooning home sizes. In 1950, the average family, then composed of 3.37 people, lived in 983 square feet. By 2010, the average home grew to 2,169 square feet. Yet it accommodated only 2.58 people. In the 1990s, a variety of forces, including a growing awareness of the impact residential and commercial buildings have on the environment, sparked the emergence of what’s now called the Tiny House Movement. When espousing the value of downsizing, small home proponents often note that, according to the U.S. Energy Administration, 39 percent of this country’s annual energy consumption is devoted to powering structures.
“My God, the American way is such a waste,” says “Lavender” Lori Parr from the Missoula-based Rocky Mountain Lavender, who in 2005 bought a 77-square-foot cabin from Finn. As with Finn, affordability at first drew Parr to the microhouse. During the past nine years, however, she’s taken increasing pride in the fact that her lifestyle draws limited resources. Smaller spaces simply require less energy. Parr’s cabin is powered by solar energy. Finn’s Potomac cabin, too, remains off-thegrid and contains no indoor plumbing. His cabins, depending on the size, cost between $15,000 and $25,000. Microhouses, however, are not monolithic. There are plenty of options for those who want to downsize. On the high end, small houses made of glass and steel, fully plumbed and wired for electricity, can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. To satisfy middle-income earners, builders such as the Sonoma, Calif.-based Tumbleweed Tiny House Company sell homes that cost between $50,000 and $70,000 and, with a kitchen and a bath,
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come in at less than 200 square feet. Tumbleweed delivers its small homes anywhere in the continental United States and Alaska. Regardless of whether one is eyeing a microhouse or not, Parr and Finn say the experience offers invaluable tips. Parr calls her microhouse experience a “fascinating experiment in simplified living,” and quips that insights gained while living there have led her to contemplate a new career as a personal organizer. “It literally began to occur to me how people misuse or don’t use the space they have,” she says. For starters, Parr recommends using a “beer refrigerator” in the kitchen, rather than a traditionally sized one. She also suggests putting a stop to stockpiling. “You don’t need to buy 24 rolls of toilet paper at Costco,” she says. At Finn’s Potomac cabin, a 40-square-foot sleeping loft offers a prime example of how to maximize space. The perch includes a large window that opens to a view of the forest and makes the space appear deceptively roomy. Windows like this help spaces feel less confined, Finn says, as do skylights, mirrors and light-color wall paint.
Building a loft made of posts, boards, plywood and drywall screws is something that just about anyone can do to add more living space. For extra help, check out the myriad tutorials and diagrams available online. Finn notes that homeowners deliberating such a project should first measure ceiling height. He prefers a loft that’s at least 5 feet tall. It’s not unusual, however, to see them come in at less than 4 feet. Be sure to use untreated wood, because treated wood contains chemicals that can be harmful with extended exposure. Minimalism is key when furnishing small spaces, Finn says. He points to a rocking chair inside the cabin as an example. “Lighter furniture with even more air in them, with more space,” Finn says, motioning to the area between the rocking chair’s wooden slats, “instead of these big, solid chairs, gives the whole room a lighter feel.” Similarly, Finn installed wall-mounted shelves above the rocking chair, in the sleeping area and under the stairs leading to the loft to avoid bulky bookcases and dressers. In addition to using “airy furniture,” buy or make a bed
with drawers or an area underneath that can be used for storage. In the kitchen, use an island countertop for culinary preparation. Such portable furniture can be moved out of the way when not in use. Store pots and pans in overhead racks. Rather than keeping kitchen knives in a bulky wooden block that consumes valuable counter space, or in a drawer, Finn hung his on wall magnets above the cabin’s propane cooking stove. From inside the cabin, Finn motions to his clutter-free space and predicts that those who decide to purge their surroundings of unnecessary things will feel liberated. He says there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being freed from the things that unnecessarily occupy our daily lives. “You really begin to appreciate how nice it is,” Finn says. “I think more and more people, if they find out about it, will discover that it’s a really great way to live.” B
was a little nervous before my home’s NorthWestern Energy audit. My small Westside house is 100 years old and, while I’ve done a ton of renovations, they’ve mostly been cosmetic. Because I never focused on improving energy efficiency and knew that I could be doing a lot more, I felt guilty. I worried that the NorthWestern auditors would judge me for being wasteful. But when Jeremy Vivrette arrived with Micah Mehus to perform my free audit, the affable consultants immediately put me at ease. Rather than criticizing the dog door that leaks cold air into my house even during Montana’s chilliest months, or the furnace that I’ve never had inspected in the 12 years that I’ve owned the property, the auditors seemed happy to help me down the road to efficiency. Vivrette smiled, for instance, as, in less than a minute, he replaced the antiquated aerator on my kitchen sink. “You just went from about 2.2 gallons a minute to about a gallon and a half,” he said.
photo by Cathrine L. Walters
Vivrette didn’t stop there. He also changed out my showerhead and my bathroom sink aerator, as Mehus wrapped my hot water heater in a cozy gray blanket of fiberglass insulation. The insulation alone will, by making the hot water heater more efficient, save me as much as $40 a year, Mehus told me. The showerhead replace-
ment, meanwhile, will cut about $35 a year off my utility bill. NorthWestern made all of the improvements at no charge. The consultants installed compact fluorescent lights that will last 10 times as long as the old-school bulbs that used to illuminate my living room, while using one quarter of the
photo by Cathrine L. Walters
power. They also gave me door sweeps, Vivrette. In addition to the slew of small weatherstrips and a plastic window-insulat- improvements they made at my house, ing kit. I felt like I had won some sort of auditors also identified ways that I can furhomeowner’s lottery. ther conserve energy in the future. One doesn’t need luck to get an audit, however. Most NorthWestern Energy customers are eligible, with a few conditions. The house or commercial building has to be at least five years old and powered in some capacity by NorthWestern. Buildings can only receive one audit. If a property changes hands, NorthWestern will provide a copy of a previously conducted audit to the new owner. The service is paid for by what’s called the Universal System Benefit Charge, which is tacked onto NorthWestern customers’ power bills. The Montana Legislature in 1997 authorized the fee to fund energy audits, renewable resource projects and low-income The duo at my house were thorough. energy assistance programs. Vivrette even attempted to squeeze into a NorthWestern pays the private energy small hatch that leads into my attic to consulting firm KEMA to conduct the inspect my insulation. Though he could’t audits, sending experts such as Mehus and fit, he was able to poke his head into the 18 Missoula Independent Homesteader 2014
attic far enough to see that I have only “R 11” insulation. Though not bad for a house erected in 1913, it’s deficient by today’s standards, which call for a significantly beefier “R 49.” Vivrette and Mehus also provided me with a lesson in what’s referred to as “phantom power suckers,” appliances and power cords that, though not in use, are channeling electricity and costing me a significant amount of cash. I learned that power tools, digital cameras, printers, DVD players and microwave ovens are like energy-sucking vampires, quietly slurping away. Largescreen plasma TVs, like the one in my living room, are especially ravenous. “Anything that’s glowing is costing you money,” Vivrette said. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development suggests plugging such phantom power suckers into a power cord that can be turned on and off. HUD says that simple step can save the average homeowner up to $94 a year. Before the consultants left, they told me that insulating my attic should be a priority. If I hire a NorthWesternapproved contractor, one listed on a white sheet of paper that Vivrette provided, the utility will provide me with $1 for every square foot covered. If I tackle the project
photo by Cathrine L. Walters
myself, the utility will give me 80 cents per square foot. Vivrette advised me that stores such as Home Depot rent the equipment required, specifically a hopper that sprays com-
pressed cellulose insulation. He cautioned, however, that it’s a two-person job and one that, in order to apply the insulation evenly, requires some finesse. He added that homeowners like me with older homes should be wary of disturbing antiquated wiring. Lastly, he told me that I should be prepared to get dirty. “It’s a mess,” he said. Days after the audit, when I received the report, I learned that blowing insulation into my attic will save me up to $118 annually. Plugging more insulation into my walls, the basement and a crawl space would cut my tab by an additional $214. The numbers shocked me. If I follow all of the suggestions provided in the report, coupled with the improvements made by Mehus and Vivrette, my annual energy bill will be roughly halved, from $1,078 to $565. During the weeks since the audit I’ve found myself making little changes. I haven’t yet insulated my attic. But I do unplug the phantom energy suckers when
photo by Cathrine L. Walters
they’re not in use. And I no longer run the tap while waiting for my drinking water to cool. I learned through NorthWestern’s literature—they provided a stack of pamphlets detailing everything from the economic and environmental benefits of a programmable thermostat to the fact that NorthWestern will give me a $75 rebate to have my long-neglected furnace tuned
up—that waiting for cold water wastes the average household 912 gallons annually. Cold water fans like me are best served by putting drinking water in the fridge. At the end of my NorthWestern Energy audit experience, I wondered why I had let guilt keep me from requesting one before. The only guilt now comes from waiting as long as I did. B
Remodels, New Construction, Additions & Restorations
Restore Your Home’s Quality Licensed/Insured
MARK SEAMAN • General Contractor 406-531-2123 www.seamansconstruction.com
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photo by Cathrine L. Walters
It’s Friday, and men in work pants and flannel shirts scrutinize the array of kitchen cabinets, sinks and light fixtures that line Home ReSource’s cluttered aisles. Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” plays on the radio as locals pick over decorative electrical plates, locally milled lumber and discount-priced wall paint. Though it’s a busy morning at Missoula’s recycled building supply center, store staffers take time to share their tips on inexpensive yet transformative home improvement projects. With their help, we compiled this list of 20 weekend projects that can be accomplished for under $20.
Replace overhead light fixtures For months, you’ve been staring at that ugly overhead light in your bedroom. It’s a yellow globe that casts a sickly glow. Because replacing it is easy—mostly a matter of turning off the power and loosening a few screws prior to attaching a new fixture—
there’s no reason to keep it. If the project seems intimidating, check out how-to guides available online. Home ReSource sells a range of used fixtures, from basic white globes to elaborate candelabras for between $5 and $20. “So, you’d be able to switch out a few,” says Home ReSource manager Simon Deter.
Tile a sink backsplash Tiling behind a sink gives a kitchen or bathroom an artsy flair. To get started, you’ll need to hang a waterproof backerboard. Use carpenter’s glue and galvanized screws to affix the backerboard to the wall, drilling the screws into wall studs. From there, use mastic tile adhesive and grout to attach the tile. “That would be under $20 here,” Deter says.
Paint Among the easiest ways to transform the feel of a room is to give it a new coat of paint. Using premixed hues, or “oops paints,” as they’re
called, will cut supply costs by 75 percent or more. Home ReSource sells gallons of exterior and interior wall paint in assorted “oops” colors for $5.
Make a chalkboard wall Home Depot sells 30-ounce cans of Rust-Oleum Specialty Black Flat Chalkboard Paint for $9.67. That’s enough paint to cover 110-square feet of wood, metal, concrete or masonry and provide tons of space for your household to express itself in ways that can be erased.
Refinish a coffee table or desk A hand sander helps with this project. Take an old wooden table or desk and clean it with mineral spirits. Sand it. Select a wood stain and apply to the piece. A quart of stain at local hardware stores typically costs about $10. For an extra polish and to better ensure that the furniture isn’t damaged by spills, seal it with polyurethane, which will cost an additional $8.
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Build a tipi for vining plants You’ll need three poles (or long sticks), steel wire and grapevines. Prop up the three poles. Use wire to tie them together at the top, making sure that the three legs are splayed at the bottom. Weave wire and vine at intervals from the tipi’s top to its bottom. You’ll be left with a natural-looking trellis that’s ready for this spring’s sweet peas.
Make a coat rack from barn wood Select a piece of barn wood and a handful of doorknobs, maybe four. (Both are available at Home ReSource). Stain or paint the wood. Place a doorknob spindle on what will be the front of the coat rack and using a drill, insert a screw through the rear, pushing the screw all the way through the wood and into the doorknob spindle. Apply wood glue where the spindle and plank connect. Apply the doorknob. Repeat.
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Transform a chandelier into a backyard fountain We got this idea from HomeReSource’s Abe Coley, who steered us to the store’s chandelier selection while explaining that it wouldn’t take much work to gut the fixture’s wiring, use silicone adhesive sealant to seal gaps and bring water to it with a slender tube. Home ReSource sells chandeliers for between $5 and $10. “That’s a crazy project,” Coley says.
Replace bland electrical plates Why keep those boring beige electrical plates when you can replace them with Michelangelo’s “David” or Botticelli’s “Spring?” At Artplates.com, those plates and others like them sell for $9.95. Local stores like the Artists’ Shop offer handcrafted ones, too.
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photo by Cathrine L. Walters
Install dimmer switches Dimmer switches allow you to adjust brightness to suit your mood. Home Depot sells them for under $10.
Switch out kitchen cabinet hardware There are a ton of different types of hardware out there, everything from pink “bubble glass” cabinet knobs, which evoke a contemporary feel, to classic brass pulls. This is a good project for DIYers looking for an easy and inexpensive undertaking.
Make a bulletin board out of corks This project may motivate you to drink more wine. To get started, you’ll need roughly two dozen corks. Once that task is accomplished, purchase a picture frame and use wood glue to affix the corks to the frame’s backing board. The undertaking should cost less than $20, not including the wine.
* Banners * Vehicle Wraps * Aluminum Signs * Magnetic Signs * Sandblasted Signs
photo by Cathrine L. Walters
* Job Site Signs * Decals * Canvas Portraits * Sandwich Boards
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Build a stone walkway
Caulk around windows and doors
The path between your home’s front door and its parking area is perennially muddy, making it all too easy to track funk into the house. To help remedy the problem, build a stone walkway. At Home Depot, $20 will buy you enough red 12-by-12 walkway stones to cover just more than 12 feet. Home ReSource also sells the stones, when available, for between 50 cents and $2.
A tube of latex caulk costs less than $2. It’s a good investment, considering that applying a good seal around windows and doors will protect your house from water damage, while better ensuring energy efficiency.
Plant an indoor garden in old dishes We frequently find ourselves coveting the banana trees, Christmas cacti and creeping Charlies that belong to our friends. Rather than going out and blowing a bunch of money on replica houseplants, we’ve found a free alternative: trimming pieces off he coveted plants to grow new ones. Once you secure a trimming, place it in a glass of water for a few weeks until it grows a root system. Once that happens, put some dirt in a funky dish and start your new indoor garden.
Transform a shower curtain into window shades Purchasing window curtains can be pricey. A good alternative is to buy a fabric shower curtain and, with a bit of sewing, transform it into something appropriate for a living room, kitchen or bedroom. Measure window size and cut the curtain to fit. When calculating the dimensions, make sure to leave extra room so you can fold over all four edges, which will enable you to hem three of the edges to prevent future fraying, and slip a curtain rod through the top fold.
Make a river rock boot tray
If you’re sick of the puddles that snow-covered boots leave by the front door, make a river
rock boot tray. To get started, purchase a serving tray that’s at least 1.5-inches deep (Target sells them for under $20). Then, harvest stones from the banks of a nearby river—stones are important, because they elevate the shoes and provide drainage, aiding moisture evaporation. Once you have the supplies, line the base of the tray with plastic wrap, which will make future cleaning easier, and apply the stones.
Make a magazine rack with plywood and upholstery fabric A magazine rack can help a household get organized, and it only takes a piece of plywood, some upholstery fabric and a staple gun to make one. You’ll need to secure a piece of plywood that’s roughly 4 x 1 and track down upholstery fabric—JoAnne’s in Missoula sells it for $12 a yard and up. Use the material to cover the plywood and a staple gun to secure it. Cut three or four strips of fabric that are wide enough to wrap around the plywood and long enough to fold over to make pockets large enough to accommodate magazines.
Replace baseboards Replacing beaten-up baseboards and wall trim will make a room feel cleaner. To remove the old ones, use a utility knife to cut through paint or caulking that separates the existing boards from the wall. Once that’s done, gently pull it away with a putty knife before switching over to a crow bar or hammer. New baseboards and molding can be purchased at Home ReSource for between 15 cents and 50 cents per foot and applied with finishing nails.
Mulch your trees Trees like it when you nurture them. Among the best ways to care for a tree is to mulch it. Half a cubic yard of mulch should run in the neighborhood of $20. That’s enough for a 3-inch-thick application across 54 square feet, and enough to give your tree the nutrients it’s been craving. B
photo by Cathrine L. Walters
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Mullan Reserve combines the best of regional design and environmental sensitivity with amenities that promote an exceptional lifestyle. The result is Missoula's most innovative and comfortable apartment community.
Energy-Efficient Features: LED Site Lighting Energy Star Appliances • High-Grade Insulation Exterior features include an extraordinary clubhouse, private gardens, open spaces and a pool and fitness center. Residences include oversized storage and balconies, bike hangers, shaker cabinetry, plank-style floors and custom finishes.
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mullanreserveapartments.com Homesteader 2014
photo courtesy of Patrick Record
One of the great things about living in Missoula is our beautifully treed urban landscape and the abundantly forested areas where wildlands and city meet. In town we enjoy the carefully planted trees that provide shade and a pleasing aesthetic. Out in the larger landscape, we seek forested areas for home sites and recreation, and understand the abundance of ecosystem services provided by trees. But what happens to these trees when they die or have to come down? While a living tree commands respect and admiration, are we affording that same respect to local trees after they are felled? Convenience and conventional business models tell us that when trees come down, we chip them and take them to a composting facility or cut them up into firewood or burn them in slash piles. Fair enough. But local and sustainably harvested logs have much greater potential, and mills in and around Missoula are adding value to our local forest resource in exciting ways. We all hear about the benefits of a local and sustainably grown tomato and we seek
photo courtesy of Patrick Record
photo courtesy of Erika Edgley
out CSAs and farmers market to support the farmers who grow them. Well, there’s no difference with wood, and purchasing and building with locally grown, sustainably harvested wood promotes an appropriate relationship between people and forests. This is the foundation of true natural resource conservation and allows buyers and builders to promote and participate in the stewardship of our forests, both urban and wildland. Much like the bumper stickers that read, “Know your farmer,” we are fortunate in Missoula to be able to “Know your forester” or “Know you mill.” Homeowners can initiate a relationship with the people that provide them wood and start feeling good about where their wood comes from. Ask some questions like, “Where was this tree growing? How far did it travel? Twenty miles? Fifty miles? Two hundred miles? What street did this maple 30
come from? Why was this tree cut down?” Missoula’s urban forest is losing an older cohort of planted trees while city
We are fortunate in Missoula to be able to “Know your forester” workers and others rush to fill the gaps with young trees. These trees should certainly be considered locally grown and sustainably harvested. Most of these trees are hardwoods and yield some extraordinarily beautiful lumber. In fact, some of the fungi and rot that leads us to take down
old trees for safety are what give wood the figure and “character” woodworkers look for. In the wildland setting, forest projects take down trees for purposes like fire-hazard reduction, pine-beetle infestations or forest restoration. The result of these small-scale projects on private lands is a healthier forest, with limbs and twigs allowed to decompose into soil organic matter, and fire-safe zones around homes and outbuildings. Good forest restoration work yields relatively poor-quality logs, as foresters should be leaving the biggest and best trees in the forest and taking out the less stately trees. Often these types of logs are burned in slash piles and remaining logs become wood chips and firewood. True, these logs don’t make good studs for graded framing lumber and that’s why bigger mills ignore them. But local sawmills in and around Missoula understand how to add value to these lesser-quality trees
and homeowners can now take advantage of this valuable resource for anything from garden structures to tables, benches, trim or just decoration. Blue-stained pine, for example, is the result of a fungus that has established in a tree, often following a pine beetle attack. Spalting or darker splotches in local maple is also the result of rot from a fungus. Missoula mills have turned these â€œrejectâ€? logs into trim packages, bench boards, slabs and tabletops now being used in businesses around town (see Lake Missoula Tea Company, Romaineâ€™s, Market on Front or the Laughing Grizzly to name a few). Local mills are also great resources for contractors, custom builders and wood workers, who often partner together. In the big scheme of things, buying local wood is likely
more sustainable than buying certified wood. If you are buying lumber in a big box store, you can look for wood certification labels, for example, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative). However, certified wood in Montana typically comes from far away and the certification protocols are more managerial and logistics-oriented than concerned with the health of the forest. The resurgence of a local orientation to wood products, like the sustainable food movement, creates a positive incentive for a local wood products economy and a healthy relationship between forests and people. B Mark Vander Meer is the owner of Bad Goat Forest Products (badgoatwood.com) and Pedro Marques manages the business.
Pet peeves A renter’s guide to finding a home with Fido by Lisa Gohrick
So, you want to get a pet. While Missoula is pretty pet friendly, not every place out there allows pets. Following are some tips on finding a home in Missoula for you and your pet. 32
Be up front about your animals Most management companies offer homes and apartments that are appropriate for pets. But not every unit will allow animals. Homesteader 2014
Some units will accept pets broadly, others have more specific rules, allowing just cats, for instance, or only dogs. Talk to the agent about your needs, and they will work with you to find a
place that is satisfactory for you. Don’t think that you can rent a “no pet” property and sneak your feline or canine companion in. Your landlord will find out.
If you are caught with an unauthorized animal, Montana state law section 72-24-422 (1)(b) states that the landlord shall issue the tenant a threeday notice to remove the animal. Section 72-24-422 (1)(e) states that if the same violation (unauthorized animal) occurs again within six months, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement with five days notice. Keep in mind, if you are evicted for an unauthorized pet, you are not relieved of your responsibilities under the lease agreement. You are still responsible for rent and utilities until the unit re-rents, or your lease agreement expires, whichever comes first. It is in your best interest to find housing where your pet is allowed.
Keep your records Some landlords require copies of your dog license and vaccination records, some will not. Almost every landlord will want to know the breed of the animal, its age and if it is spayed or neutered. Some insurance companies do not allow landlords to rent to certain breeds of dogs because of the liability risk associated with the breed. Check with your landlord before renting a place or getting a dog to make sure the pet you are considering is one that is allowed.
Be prepared to pay additional deposit Many landlords will require an additional up-front payment to cover any potential damage caused by your pet. This
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amount will vary, as there is no rule as to how much may be charged. Remember, this additional deposit is still considered a security deposit and is refundable as long as the unit is returned clean and undamaged and no money is owed to the landlord. Some landlords require “pet rent.” This is an additional monthly amount paid in exchange for the pet being allowed to live at the property. (Is Fifi’s company really worth an additional $600 per year in rent? Ask yourself this question before getting a pet).
Pet damage can be costly If your roommate decides to go out and get a dog and you look the other way, it could cost you money, too. Most rental agreements are “joint and several,” meaning that you are just as responsible for any damage done by the pet as your roommate. For example, Joe decided to get an unauthorized dog and his roommates did or said nothing. The cute little puppy used the entire main floor of the house as a bathroom. Again, the roommates did nothing. When Joe and the gang vacated, the urine damage was so extensive that carpet needed
replaced at a cost of $2,500. Not only did Joe have to pay for this, but his roommates were on the hook as well. Don’t let your roommate’s unauthorized pet cost you hundreds of dollars.
Take the time to find a place where your pet is welcome. Again, Missoula is a pretty pet-friendly town and there are hundreds of units out there for you and your animal. Take the time to find a place where your pet is welcome. This will help to make sure your dog is in a place where he has a yard to stretch his legs and is not locked up in an apartment all day peeing on the carpet. A happy pet = a happy pet owner! B Lisa Gohrick is a licensed property manager for Garden City Property Mananagment (gcpm-mt.com).
photo by Cathrine L. Walters
photo by Cathrine L. Walters
Settling down Is homeownership right for you? by Brendan R. Moles
To be or not to be a homeowner? This is a valid question on the minds of many potential homeowners. For some households the choice is easy–they have no desire to be a homeowner. Their choice is to be a renter. Maybe they like the freedom to move from place to place. They do not want the responsibility of maintenance and repairs. Others may have the desire to purchase a home but are unable due to bad credit, lack of credit, too much debt or not enough income. Some folks might have all their ducks in a row but still need to find that perfect home. Whatever the choice, people who wish to become homeowners should consider their options and weigh 36
the pros and cons of homeownership. An advantage of homeownership is having a stable housing cost. With a fixedrate mortgage the principle and interest payments will never go up, but be aware that taxes and insurance may increase each year. There could be tax benefits for those who are able to itemize their deductions rather than taking the standard deduction–home loan interest and property taxes paid each year are deductible from taxable income. In addition, mortgage payments are like an investment and, over time, homeowners build equity in their home. Making monthly mortgage payments on time also creates good credit. Owning a
home allows the control and freedom to live as one desires – choose paint colors, have pets and make improvements. Homeownership creates stability in a household, creating pride, a feeling of permanence and increasing engagement and connection to the community. One should also consider the disadvantages to homeownership. There are generally higher monthly costs of supporting a home since often the utilities and maintenance are more expensive than rent. When renting, repairs are the landlord’s responsibility, whereas these obligations fall to the homeowner upon purchase. There is less mobility associated with homeownership.
Selling a home could take weeks, months and, depending on the market, sometimes a year or more. As seen over the past several years, the housing market has suffered from the economic downturn. There are no guarantees that a home will increase in value and, in some communities, housing values have dropped significantly. In general, owning a home should be viewed as a long-term investment. The good news is that history has shown that homeownership is a good investment over time. It is important to educate oneself prior to making the decision to become a homeowner. Homeownership can be a complicated and intimidating process, and education gives one the tools and knowledge needed to be successful. Participating in a pre-purchase homeownership class from a reputable source provides instruction and knowledge about the home purchase process. (To assist with finding a highquality pre-purchase education class, look for an organization that has adopted the National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and
Counseling at homeownershipsta dards.com). Education enables one to make an informed decision about what can be the largest purchase and most important investment a person will make in their lifetime. Classes include information on budgeting, savings, credit, affordability, mortgage financing, home inspection, homeownerâ€™s insurance and the roles of
real estate agents and lenders. If, after empowering oneself with knowledge about homeownership, the decision is made to be become a homeowner, then there are a number of steps to be taken. Dependent on an individualâ€™s situation, these steps can take several months or even longer to complete. They include: creating a realistic budget; finding a rep-
utable lender to determine a loan amount; deciding on home type and then finding the home, perhaps with the assistance of a real estate agent; making an offer and upon acceptance entering into a purchase con-
Becoming a successful homeowner can indeed be very rewarding. In the words of one recent first-time homebuyer, “Without a homebuyer class, I never would have taken that first step off the edge of the world into the land of the homeowner. I’m at the age where most people are paying off their mortgage, and though I have a good job that I love, because of the wage scale… I am low-income. The class taught me that I could do this, no matter what my age. I learned about all the pieces and where I would run across them in this journey and where I could look for financial assistance to make all this come about–and I did. I closed on a house last week that is photo courtesy of Logan Photography perfect for me. It took me two years, but it happened.” tract; having the home examined by a proTo be or not to be a homeowner is a fessional home inspector; securing home question that can only be answered by and title insurance; and, last but certainly weighing present and future household not least, closing the loan giving the purneeds and educating oneself on the pros chaser the deed to the property. and cons of homeownership. The time to
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purchase a home, in the opinions of some, has never been better due to all-time low interest rates and reduced property prices. Though the ability to borrow dollars for
purchasing a home has tightened, thereâ€™s not a better place to start the adventure than educating oneself by attending a homebuyer education class near you. B
Brendan R. Moles is the housing services coordinator at Missoulaâ€™s Homeword (homeword.org ).
Time to redesign Transformations in living spaces by Kirby Whetstine • photos by Cathrine L. Walters
Did you know that you can transform that doesn’t quite fit your lifestyle or sense the interior of your house to appear and of space. It’s possible to rethink your feel like a new home, one redesigned to be home’s basic layout to find strategies to the house you always wanted? If you’ve better integrate different areas. been living in the same house for years, or By moving or modifying certain walls even if you just moved in, you may have you can dramatically transform the look, thought that your home would be perfect if feel and texture of any area in the house. I it wasn’t for a particular design scenario use the term “area,” because I am interest40 Missoula Independent Homesteader 2014
ed in evaluating the whole house as the dynamic living space that it is. Redesigning certain areas of the home, such as the kitchen, dining and living room, will allow a natural connectivity between those rooms. Creative redesigning can entirely transform the relationship you have with your living space.
It’s amazing how little it takes to change and impressively liven up an otherwise plain building design. To any basic home layout you can alter, rearrange, remove or add an element that will turn your living space into a place you’ll appreciate for years to come. In some home designs, the kitchen is segregated from surrounding areas in the house. The kitchen area, however, can be brought into the rest of the house by consolidating some of the cabinets and opening up a few walls. This technique creates a very open and welcome feel to the entire area. As an example, a recent client had a fairly new house. He and his son loved the neighborhood and made some improvements to the home to fit their lifestyle. What the homeowner didn’t like is that the original house design placed the laundry room in the kitchen, which completely infringed on the whole purpose of having a kitchen—cooking food. In this home, a second living room sat next to the main one, with just a passthrough partition separating them. The
property owner decided to get rid of the second living room altogether and use the space for a newly created laundry room and expand the master bath, doubling its size. I cut down a wall that separated the kitchen from the main living room, meanwhile, making it counter height and then installed a large countertop. Now the living room, kitchen and dining areas were inte-
grated. With the addition of a 6-foot-wide patio door, daylight flowed into all of these areas. The finished project gave the whole house a completely new and open feel. On another project, the issues were completely different. It was a much older house that once served as a trading post prior to being transformed into a residence. The front half of the home incorpo-
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rated the kitchen and living area in one large room with high ceilings and many windows that provided an excellent sense of spaciousness. The homeowner and I decided during the process of remodeling that it would be a good idea to give the kitchen area a space of its own, without closing it in or diminishing the great room. In order to accomplish that, I constructed a large archway along with some half walls
between the two. The effect was a very impressive transition from the great room to the kitchen and dining areas. This was a very simple solution that made an enormous positive impact on the whole living space. So what does it take to transform the design of your home into something new and more functional for your lifestyle? It starts by looking at your home
from a different perspective. Look at the flow and function of the different living spaces; what would give these areas a new look and better integrated dynamics to the rest of the house? See your house as something you could remake and restyle; what would you change in the design? What’s getting in the way of the natural flow? Be creative with your ideas; refer to remodeling publications and save tips that appeal to you. It’s essential to consult with a qualified architect who can identify load-bearing walls and other considerations unique to your home. It’s also important to hire a licensed remodeling contractor who understands and is interested in your ideas and your project. Now’s the time to redesign, enjoy the process of transforming your home. B Kirby Whetstine is the owner of Building Solutions (mtbuildingsolutions.com). He has been activly involved in residential remodiling projects since 1991.
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Housing 2014 by Missoula Organization of REALTORS®
We are pleased to present the 2014 Missoula Housing Report, our ninth annual report on housing in the city and county of Missoula. This year’s report, as with previous reports, represents the collaborative efforts of the Coordinating Committee for the Housing Report. Committee membership is drawn from the Missoula regional community, with members who represent 44
a wide spectrum of businesses, organizations, agencies, and individuals concerned with our local housing market. The content of each year’s report evolves based on the following: • current trends • available information • feedback from readers like you Our objective is always to provide a com-
prehensive, credible, and neutral picture of Missoula housing that can be used as a tool by community members and policy makers as they seek to serve Missoula’s needs. Changes to this year’s report include discussions of low income housing and distressed sales, which are currently significant issues. In previous years, we added neighborhood information and more
detail on what is happening in housing finance. Please let us know your thoughts on this report and how we might improve it. If, after reading this report, you are interested in getting involved in meeting the housing needs of our community, please contact any of the public or private agencies engaged in local housing mentioned in this report. Additional housing resources are listed on the Missoula Organization of R E A LT O R S ® w e b s i t e a t www.MissoulaRealEstate.com.
Housing Sales and Prices Home Sales 2013 The number of homes sold in Missoula increased by 23 percent in 2013. A total of 1,322 homes were sold, up from 1,068 in 2011; the median price of homes sold increased by 2.5 percent to $215,000 (Table 1). Home sales were strongest in the $150,001-$275,000 price range. This makes sense given the median price of homes
Table 1: Missoula home sales increased in number and in median price.
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in Missoula. These homes also saw the highest sales increase over 2012 (Figure 1). Both of these measures reflect national trends. The National Association of REALTORS® has reported that, nationally, the median home price rose to $197,100, up from $176,800, in 2012, and the number of sales of existing homes was at 5,090,000, up from 4,660,000, in 2012. Condo and Town-house Sales 2013 Sales of condominiums and townhouses were much higher in 2013. The number of sales increased in every price range (Figure 2). The market potential remains strong in 2014. Sales Trends by Neighborhood Every neighborhood experienced increased home sales except U-Area/Slant, which decreased slightly. Mullan
Rd/Expressway and Central Missoula saw the highest increases (Figure 3). E. Missoula/Clinton Mullan Rd/ Expressway, and Miller Creek each experienced a slight decrease in median sales price since 2012. By far, the largest median increase occurred in Grant Creek, rising from $300,000 to almost $350,000 (Figure 4). Pace of Home Sales One measure of a healthy real estate
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market is the absorption rate. The absorption rate represents the total housing supply of the market at a given time. Unlike the “days on market” measure, this rate takes active listing information into account as well. In the past any reported “days on market” numbers reflected the average time on market for only sold properties. The absorption rate includes the amount of sold inventory compared to the amount of active inventory at the time. To calculate
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Only the U-Area/Slant neighborhood experienced lower homes sales in 2013 versus 2012.
this rate, the total number of active listings is divided by the number of sales over a one-month period. The resulting number represents how many months’ worth of inventory is currently listed for sale. For example, if an area had 20 listings and five sales in the last 30 days, the absorption rate would be 4, which means that based on the prior market’s activity, it would take four months for the remaining current inventory to sell. The absorption rate defines various markets according to the following general rule: • Under three months is a seller’s market.
• Three to nine months is a normal market. • Nine to 12 months is an over-supply. • Over 12 months is an over-loaded market and a buyer’s market. The Missoula Organization of REALTORS® has tracked the absorption rate since 2008, switching to the current segmented format i n m i d - 2 0 0 9 . Ke e p i n g segmented data at certain price points demonstrates which price ranges are showing better overall market health. As Figure 5 shows, the real estate bubble and the recovery have affected homes in various price ranges differently.
For the total market you can see there was a spike in late 2010 which pushed Missoula’s overall absorption rate to almost 30 months (Figure 6). This can be attributed to the
you consider the rule of thumb on over-supply versus normal supply, you see that the Missoula market has only moved into a more “normal” range in the last two quarters.
406-859-3522 The median sales price increased in all but three neighborhoods.
end of the first-time home buyer and move-up buyer tax credit. The market lost buyers that either bought or decided against buying once the tax credit was up and had to adjust and recover to that. The market absorption rate has gradually been decreasing, suggesting a return closer to a desired equilibrium. The red dashed lines signify what is considered a healthy absorption rate. So, if
Taking a look at the segmented data we see that the lower price ranges have adjusted and adapted to the current market more quickly (Figure 5). The positive that we see in this data is that most price segments have moved into a scenario of more normal supply and some areas are even creeping down into what one may consider a seller’s market. However the lack of supply presents chal-
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lenges as well while buyers might have to wait longer to find housing they want and find more fierce competition when bidding on listings. Additionally we see the top-end of Missoulaâ€™s market still struggling with vast over-supply. It has been improving for those who own homes over $425,000 but things are still not close to a market with a normal supply of buyers and sellers.
Housing Finance Mortgage Loans In 2013, interest rates ranged between a low of 3.75 percent during the first quarter of 2013 and a high of 4.75 percent by the end of the third quarter through the first part of the fourth quarter. This marks the first annualized increase since 2009
(Figure 7). Currently, mortgage interest rates range from 4.250 percent to 4.50 percent. These figures reflect 30-year fixed rate loans. One of many significant changes in 2013 and 2014 was the increase in the allowable low-middle credit score from 640 to 680 for any borrower wanting conventional loans but also needing private mortgage insurance. In addition, borrowers with credit scores lower than 680 were required to take first-time homebuyer classes even if they were not firsttime home buyers. Borrowers with credit scores less than 640 found few options for financing other than the FHA loans through the Montana Board of Housing.
For credit worthy buyers, FHA has become a less desirable option due to increased standards and mortgage insurance costs. In 2014, borrowers that show breaks in employment or who change jobs frequently must be able to show that they have gone from a worse situation to a better situation. Borrowers coming out of school and employed in their first full-time job must have completed any probationary period. One of the biggest changes is that the total allowable debt ratio has dropped from 45 percent to 43 percent. This does not mean that borrowers with a debt ratio
over 43 percent but less than 45 percent will not be able to purchase, but underwriters will be looking for strong compensating factors. Business debt paid by a selfemployed borrowerâ€™s business must be documented with a minimum of 12 months cancelled checks from the business
and a letter from the borrowerâ€™s accountant that the debt is paid by the business income and is shown on the business tax returns. New debts incurred by the borrower but paid by the business will be reported as the borrowerâ€™s personal obligation.
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There are many changes to underwriting and qualification. Some have a greater impact than others. Underwriters are now required to document all sources of "cash to close." Borrowers must provide at least 2 months of bank statements showing that the funds for closing have been available in the account for the two-month period. Cash deposits greater than a borrower’s pay must be documented. Interest rates remain low and good lenders can help borrowers who may think they cannot qualify. There are a number of lending programs available to borrowers who have little money for a down payment. nowledgeable lenders can walk prospective borrowers through the process. The Missoula Organization of REALTORS® encourages all prospective homebuyers to get pre-qualified with the lender of their choice and to keep that lender informed about any changes in personal or financial status as these could increase buying potential. Doing so can also save realtors and borrowers a lot of work and embarrassment should the borrower’s situation change for the worse.
Impacts of Mortgage Insurance Mortgage insurance is a policy that protects the lender in the event that the homeowner defaults on payments. Mortgage insurance premiums are paid by the homeowner. Mortgage insurance is not required on all loans, but is required on conventional loans when the first mortgage is greater than 80 percent of the property value. FHA and Rural Development (RD) loans also require mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance was tax deductible in 2012 and 2013 on a qualified personal residence. The deduction was phased out by 10 percent for each $1,000 by which the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income exceeded $100,000. Thus, the deduction was unavailable for a taxpayer with an adjusted gross income in excess of $110,000. Down Payments Down payment requirements for most loan program types, including FHA and conventional loan products remain virtually the same. FHA continues to require a minimum of 3.50 percent down while some
Table 2: Net foreclosures decreased in 2013, dropping to the lowest level since 2007.
conventional products are being offered between 3 percent and 5 percent. A typical down payment on a conventional loan would be 5 percent or more. FHA financing is still an option with a minimum down payment of 3.50 percent. It may not be the first choice for borrowers who have a 5 percent down payment because of the significant increase in upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums, which increased began in April 2012. FHA is trying to reduce its risk tolerance by avoiding layering risks, which include lower credit scores, low down payments and high debt-to-income ratios.
U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs ( VA) loans are still a viable option for borrowers who are eligible and continue to offer 100 percent financing in most cases. USDA Rural Development loans continue to be a favorable choice for those borrowers who have little to no down payment and qualify under the income guidelines and other under writing parameters. There are, however, restrictions on where the property can be located and if accessory structures exist. Distressed Sales Distressed sales include real estate owned (REO) foreclosures and short sales.
The number of distressed sales decreased slightly in 2013. Homesteader 2014
Compared to an increase in total market volume, the number of distressed sales was significantly less.
Photo by Chris Chapman
Distressed property usually sells far below market value. A foreclosure resale occurs when a bank sells a property after a foreclosure has been finalized. A short sale is a process allowing homeowners to sell properties for less than the mortgage balance, with lender approval. This allows homeowners to pay lenders and avoid foreclosure, reducing additional costs for both creditors and borrowers. In 2013, Missoula experienced the first decrease in distressed sales in five years. There were more short sales than in 2012, but fewer foreclosures (Table 2). While there were slightly fewer distressed sales in 2013, the total market volume increased by about 240 sales. The increase in non-distressed sales is an encouraging sign for Missoula (Figure 8).
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Rental Occupancy As new units came into the marketplace in 2013, the rental market experienced an overall
increase in vacancy rates. Another item of note is that while the 4th quarter historically has very low vacancy rates, they almost doubled from 2.1 percent in 2011 to 3.9 percent in 2012. Harvardâ€™s The State of the Nationâ€™s Housing 2012 reported the national rental vacancy rate at 9.5 percent in 2011, compared to Missoulaâ€™s average vacancy rate of 3.5 percent at the time. Although vacancy rates are still below the national average across all categories, some segments took a significant jump in 2012 with the continued development of multi-family units (Figure 10). Low rental vacancy rates are common in college towns due to the pressure exerted by the student population. College towns such as Bozeman and Ft. Collins, Colorado, also have vacancy rates well below the national average. Although there is an increase in rental prices from 2012 (Figure 11), the 2013 information provided does not take into account the marketing practices at play. With increased
The 2013 rental vacancy rate increased for all unit types, with one bedroom vacancies almost doubling and 4+ bedroom vacancies tripling.
vacancy rates, owners are offering free rent, low deposits and other incentives to find renters. Long term, with increased vacancy, there may be some changes moving forward. Rental Assistance Programs The Missoula Housing
Authority (MHA) has 774 available Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers that subsidize rent to private landlords for eligible participants. Another 262 vouchers are provided in Missoula by the Montana Department of Commerce. However, funding cuts meant that not all of those
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vouchers could be deployed; for example, MHA could support only 733 vouchers—a loss of 40 families being served. In fact, MHA did not issue vouchers to new families for most of the year. In December 2013, the unduplicated number of house-
od, rising to 1,879 from 1,756. MHA received a modest increase in the number of vouchers it provided for homeless households in 2012. The number of vouchers for homeless is up to 112, from 101 in 2010 and 96 in 2007. The number of homeless individuals on
down, taking 41 units offline. However, none of the tenants were displaced as MHA relocated them. Rebuilding is underway and will be completed in 2014. Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers make private-market housing affordable for low-
Table 3: The waiting lists for MHA Unduplicated and MHA Section 8 Vouchers have increased by 4 percent and 7 percent respectively. This year, two fewer families remain on the MHA Homeless Project waiting list.
holds on MHA waitlists was 1,995, up from 1,920 in 2012. The number of households on the voucher waiting list also increased over the same peri-
the waitlist for those vouchers was 83, down from last year’s 111 (Table 3). In June, one of MHA’s public housing complexes burned
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income families and individuals by paying a portion of the rent in market rate properties. The average rent being charged for these families continues to
climb except in studio apartments, which is a very small portion of the recipients.
Conclusion and Outlook Missoula’s housing market continues to be strong. Most measures follow improving national trends but at varying degrees. And while some troubling conditions remain, the overall picture is profoundly positive. The number of home sales and sales of condominiums and townhouses are up in almost every neighborhood. This means that residents are optimistic about the economic recovery. Multi-family development continues to expand while
rental vacancies, although increasing quickly, remain below the national average. An increase in lot development could be tied to low inventory combined with increased demand, leaving buyers with fewer options. Many aspiring homeowners are deciding to build instead, and this will help fuel economic growth in 2014. Fewer building permits were issued in the city in 2013, but since multi-family development is growing, the available housing stock should keep pace with Missoula’s positive net migration. Homebuyers do have a few challenges. There is less distressed property on the market now, meaning fewer deals than
in years past. Mortgage interest rates have increased to 4.75 percent. The median home price has increased to $210,000, but less expensive property is available for savvy
buyers who keep a close eye on the market. Homeowners, on the other hand, should feel encouraged about the decrease in distressed property. Also, increased home
prices can mean more flexibility when it’s time to sell. And ultimately, both are a sign of a stronger economy. The number of foreclosures decreased in 2013. This is great
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news for homeowners and lenders alike. Homeword deserves a lot of credit for helping many Missoula families prepare for homeownership and prevent foreclosure. The team at Homeword provides an important service that benefits the entire housing market. Many of Missoula’s most vulnerable residents can be encouraged by some of the economic figures. For instance, last year saw a decrease in unemployment and in the percentage of people living below the Federal Poverty Level. Also, “Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness” began in earnest. This shows just how much Missoulian’s care about their neighbors. One area that is not ideal is 58
the growing number of people seeking financial housing assistance from the Missoula Housing Authority (MHA). Also, MHA funding cuts prevented forty families from receiving the rental assistance promised to them by their vouchers. Another concern is the number of households on the waiting list for MHA rental assistance, which neared 2,000 households. Similarly, the Section 8 waiting list rose to 1,879. Missoula’s housing market is posting positive statistics overall. Missoula County is a great place to live with plenty of opportunity. The members of the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® look forward to continued growth throughout 2014 and beyond.∞
Published on Apr 2, 2014