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Sept. 16, 2019

Things to Avoid *AFTER* Applying for a Mortgage

Congratulations! You’ve found a home to buy and have applied for a mortgage! You’re undoubtedly excited about the opportunity to decorate your new home, but before you make any large purchases, move your money around, or make any big-time life changes, consult your loan officer – someone who will be able to tell you how your decisions will impact your home loan.


Below is a list of Things You Shouldn’t Do After Applying for a Mortgage. Some may seem obvious, but some may not.


1. Don’t Change Jobs or the Way You Are Paid at Your Job. Your loan officer must be able to track the source and amount of your annual income. If possible, you’ll want to avoid changing from salary to commission or becoming self-employed during this time as well.


2. Don’t Deposit Cash into Your Bank Accounts. Lenders need to source your money, and cash is not really traceable. Before you deposit any amount of cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer.


3. Don’t Make Any Large Purchases Like a New Car or Furniture for Your New Home. New debt comes with it, including new monthly obligations. New obligations create new qualifications. People with new debt have higher debt to income ratios…higher ratios make for riskier loans…and sometimes qualified borrowers no longer qualify.


4. Don’t Co-Sign Other Loans for Anyone. When you co-sign, you are obligated. As we mentioned, with that obligation comes higher ratios as well. Even if you swear you will not be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count the payments against you.


5. Don’t Change Bank Accounts. Remember, lenders need to source and track assets. That task is significantly easier when there is consistency among your accounts. Before you even transfer any money, talk to your loan officer.


6. Don’t Apply for New Credit. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car. When you have your credit report run by organizations in multiple financial channels (mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), your FICO® score will be affected. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and maybe even your eligibility for approval.


7. Don’t Close Any Credit Accounts. Many clients erroneously believe that having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. Wrong. A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both of those determinants in your score.


Bottom Line

Any blip in income, assets, or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. The best advice is to fully disclose and discuss your plans with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature. They are there to guide you through the process.


Related posts on our blog:

Our Buyers Guide to Mortgage Pre-approval

Top 12 Apps for Homeowners & Renters

Understanding Residential Appraisals

Sept. 14, 2019

What Is the Probability That Home Values Sink?

With the current uncertainty about the economy triggered by a potential trade war, some people are telling themselves to wait to purchase their first home or move-up to their dream house because they think or hope home prices will drop over the next few years. However, the experts disagree with this perspective.

So do I.  And there lies the rub.  How to tell you, without sounding like a pushy, anxious real estate agent, that NOW is always a better time to buy.  Let me try to explain myself.  First with a chart!

Here is a table showing the predicted levels of appreciation from six major housing sources:

As you see, every source believes home prices will continue to appreciate (albeit at lower levels than we have seen over the last several years). But, not one source is calling for residential real estate values to depreciate. Hello there answers!

So there you are.  Waiting for prices to fall before purchasing a home needs to account for the probability of that happening anytime soon to be very low. With mortgage rates still at near historic lows, even with the most recent blips, now is very much the time to act.  If you are using random advice cobbled from conversations about spooked friends who are upset they missed out, take care to acknowledge your sources.  Don't just take our word for it, look at even more data, to make a truly informed decision.

Want more of the goodness?  Sign up to receive our regular market reports, or if you would like to sell and change your lifestyle (downsize, upsize, move out to the mountains, whatevs), just shoot us a quick note and we'll get you set up.

More on this topic:

What's Your Homebuying Power?

The Compound Effect:  Building Your Household Wealth

The Impact of Homeownership on Civic Involvement

Aug. 13, 2019

5 Real Estate Reality TV Myths Explained

Have you ever found yourself flipping through channels, only to find yourself suddenly glued to the couch in the middle of an HGTV binge session? Watching entire seasons of shows like “Property Brothers,” “Fixer Upper,” and “Love It or List It,” all in one sitting.  Time wasted?  Read on...

When you’re in the middle of your next real estate-themed TV show marathon, you might be inclined to start to think everything you see on the screen must be how it works in real life. However, you may need a reality check. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but hear me out for just a moment.

Reality TV Show Myths vs. Real Life:

Myth #1: Buyers look at 3 homes and decide to purchase one of them.

Truth: There may be buyers who fall in love and buy the first home they see, and that's OK when you're working with a skilled agent who can advise you and be the devil's advocate if needed, but according to the National Association of Realtors, the average homebuyer tours 10 homes as a part of their search.  


Myth #2: The houses the buyers are touring are still for sale.

Truth: Everything is staged for TV. Many of the homes shown are already sold and are off the market. 


Myth #3: The buyers haven’t made a purchase decision yet.

Truth: Since there is no way to show the entire buying process in a 30-minute show, TV producers often choose buyers who are further along in the process and have already chosen a home to buy. This is the confusing part where you may think that making decisions happens must faster than it actually does.


Myth #4: If you list your home for sale, it will ALWAYS sell at the open house.

Truth: Of course, this would be great! Open houses can be an important tool to provide exposure to buyers in your area, but they are only one piece of the overall marketing of your home. Keep in mind, most serious buyers schedule appointments through their agents, with most homes being sold during regular showing appointments.


Myth #5: Homeowners decide to sell their homes after a 5-minute conversation.

Truth: Similar to the buyers portrayed on the shows, many of the sellers have already spent hours or even months deliberating the decision to list their homes and move on with their lives and goals.


Bottom Line

Having an experienced agent on your side while navigating the real estate market is the best way to guarantee you can make the home of your dreams a true reality with realistic expectations.  Let's meet up!

Contact us to schedule some coffee or tea at our office near downtown Bozeman!



Look at your home through buyer's eyes

Staging case study



June 3, 2019

Staging Case Study: Tri-Level Country Home

Location:  Bozeman Montana

Beds/Baths: 4 bedroom 2 bath

Square Footage:  3,124

Project Description:  Young, active family with three dogs and two cats that have 24-hour indoor/outdoor access to home.  This property has stunning views, lots of sunlight and multiple levels.  Some rooms have been updated, new paint throughout makes it feel comfortable and welcoming.

Goal:  Create an upscale, livable country home that feels move-in ready for our target demographic, while utilizing sturdy staging furniture and accessories that can tolerate pets between showings.

Living Room:

Before:  Comfortable for people and pets!

After: Open and spacious


Kitchen and Dining Rooms:

Before: Your basic kitchen/dining combo room

After: Angles and professional staging and photos make all the difference

Before:  Everyday kitchen living looks just like this in most homes

After:  What a buyer wants to see online



Before: Typical family mud room

After:  Easy to visualize living here and using this space


Empty Spare Bedroom:

Before: Unused spare bedroom

 Before: Instant bed gives the room a use and feeling of comfort


Master Bath:

Before: Master bath

After: Lighter shower curtain, fresh towels and a pop of color


Family Room/Den:

Before: Basement family room

After: Moving furniture and changing the angle puts you right inside the space


Same house, staged.  Big difference right?  Staging is different from interior design.  Stagers and interior designers follow similar design principles, but their goals are completely different. The interior decorator works to make a home reflect the taste and lifestyle of the current owner, but a stagers primary purpose is to quickly transform a home so it appeals to potential buyers online.  Two different goals. 


From one of our recent clients:

“My idea of “staging” a house by a realtor was simple:  The realtor suggests, “Your place looks like crap, and I’m here to fix it up with my superior taste”.  Then along came Page Huyette whose first step in HER idea of staging was, “I won’t do anything you are not comfortable with.”  This suited me fine because I wasn’t comfortable with any of it.  

Soon, however, I realized that Page and I were operating at cross purposes.  She was trying to sell my large house, while I was trying to get ready to move into a house half its size.  I had been assiduously emptying whole rooms of furniture in my zeal to downsize.  Page pointed out the empty, forlorn rooms and suggested that it might be hard for a potential buyer to “see themselves” in such a setting.  Ok, ok! Go ahead and “stage”, Page!  Within hours, Page had supplied a minimum number of domestic items to create inviting spaces where there had been emptiness.  

Further, I had a bedroom where I was loathe to change ANYTHING because my son, as a child, had “decorated” the room.  Now this was a delicate problem for Page: what to do in a room the seller was treating, irrationally, as sacrosanct. Here’s what she did: she threw a wildly handsome bedspread over the bed which caused the room to POP!  Even the girl who vacuumed the house was heard to say, “Wow!” upon entering the room.  

To say that I now have a very different idea of what it means to “stage" is an understatement.  Page can “upstage" me any time.  And...I have ordered for our new, much smaller house, that very same handsome bedspread for the guest room!”

--Sarah Leinen, Bozeman MT


Learn more about our staging services offered exclusively for our clients.


April 2, 2019

Early Spring Real Estate Update

Back in November, which means before the extreme cold snap and mountains of snow descended on us, I wrote a post explaining what was going on in the market.  There was a strange doomsday rumor circulating, that everything was going to crash, and there would be deals galore.  

The concerns continue.  Just last week, Realtor.com shared a survey they performed with active home shoppers (those who plan to purchase their next home in 1 year or less). The survey asked their opinion on an impending recession and its possible impact on the housing market.  Here are two of the answers:

  42% believe a recession will occur this year or next (another 16% said 2021)

  59% believe the housing market would fare the same or worse than it did in 2008 (1)

This attitude mirrors what I was hearing last fall. Some conversations hinted that people were even secretly (and not so secretly) wishing for this to happen, so they could grab some deals.  It's OK, it's human nature to approach scary things from a self-preservation standpoint. 

Point is, it didn't happen.  I was pretty certain it wouldn't, and now here we are in a busy market again.  This year is shaping up to be just as busy and competitive as last year, with one exception:

Even lower interest rates.

Say what?  

It's also important to remember that a recession doesn't always coincide with falling home prices.  According to research done by CoreLogic, home values weren’t negatively impacted as they were in 2008 during the previous four recessions.  Here's a handy chart for you(2):


Yeah, 2008 was ugh-lee!  We were all there, we remember. But look at the chart, three of the last four recessions show appreciating home values.  The other MAJOR factor:  Lending is a completely different animal than it was in 2008, everything about it has changed.  Specifically to prevent another occurence like we saw then.

From the trenches, I can share that the market is active, it started out earlier and faster for our office than it did last year, and while some properties are sitting on market longer, I still believe that's due to poor pricing out of the gate, or an inherent flaw in the property as well (busy street, needs updating, etc) so rest assured, with these insanely low mortgage rates we are seeing, real estate remains a solid value.

We always run a comparative pricing analysis for our buyers before we write an offer, so you know how the house you want is positioned against similar properties in terms of list price.  This helps prevent problems with appraisals, and gives you peace of mind that your offer is backed up by data and not just emotions.

Whadda ya say, shall we get started?  











(1)Content excerpted from https://www.simplifyingthemarket.com/en/2019/04/02/homebuyers-shouldnt-worry-about-2008-all-over-again/?a=477236-2ea95c3ebc35ccb0fd9e54b6ab2c103f

(2) Corelogic Nat'l Home Pricing index

Dec. 12, 2018

Our Buyers Guide to Mortgage Pre-Approval

Picture this:  You are sitting in a hallway, waiting for a stranger in a suit to size you up and decide if you’re worthy as a potential homeowner.  Your palms sweat and your breath gets a little quicker. You’re one step closer to owning your own home, but this one is a doozy --  you are waiting for your appointment for your mortgage pre-approval. 

Stop!  It doesn't have to be scary.  Let’s quickly talk abouat the  mortgage pre-approval process, step-by-step.


Step One: Mortgage Pre-Qualification Versus Pre-Approval

You may already have a pre-qualification letter saying that you can probably buy a house in a particular price range, so why isn’t this enough? (Don't have that, we definitely need to talk) A lot of homebuyers find this next part of the process confusing, and frankly, it can be. We've got your back on this one.

Your pre-qualification was probably done over the phone, through an internet application or during a meeting with a lender. Many people start with where they bank.  This may or may not be the right place to end up. 

They asked you a bunch of questions about your income, your job and maybe even pulled a “soft” credit report to get some idea about your debts.

Based on this information, they gave you the details on the kinds of programs you’re eligible for and how much you can expect in buying power. You probably got a letter that you could show your Realtor to help guide the buying process.

The difference between the pre-qualification and the pre-approval is simple: a pre-qualification is based largely on your word. If you give the lender incorrect information, they’ll give you a pre-qualification letter that’s not right.

A pre-approval, on the other hand, takes a harder look at your background, work history and requires a full credit report and FICO score to ensure that you can, in fact, pay back a note.


Step Two: Documentation

Your next meetup with the nice lender is going to be to deliver (or email) documents, provide consent to pull a full credit report and, if you’ve already found one, give them the information on the home you’ve put under contract.  Make sure you have your signed agreement with your chosen agent as part of this process also.  It's a team approach that will get you through this.

Documentation you’ll be asked to bring will include pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns, along with other information that may be needed to verify your income source or sources. Self-employed people, for example, are sometimes required to prepare profit and loss statements (or just pony up more tax returns). If you have assets like a 401(k) or even a CD, you’ll want to bring the details on these, too.


Step Three: The Loan Estimate Form

You’re going to get a copy of something called the Loan Estimate Form (names may vary by lender), probably at the same meeting where your lender pulls that full credit report and takes all your papers away. This form explains exactly how much they expect you’ll need to bring to closing, along with itemized estimated fees to plan for at closing. If you’re shopping your loan, collect these and compare them side by side before you make your final choice.

If you haven't found a home to purchase yet, this will be general.  Ask your lender to contact your agent (hoping it's us here) and share details about how much you qualify for and other details that will help us to write the contract in the most competitive way.

But don’t spend too much time crunching the numbers. Just like your contract will say, “Time is of the Essence.”


Step Four: Acceptance

Once you’ve had a few minutes to review the paperwork and you’ve made your final pass through the numbers, all that’s left is to call the lender you’ve chosen and let them know you need that pre-approval letter sent over to your Realtor (hello again!) We will note this is the contract and attach it to your offer to show the seller of the property you want to buy that you have done your homework and are indeed a qualified buyer.

Understand that a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you’re going to get the money you need to close. Several things can go wrong along the way through underwriting, including, but not limited to:

– Unverifiable income (this is often due to issues with overtime)

– A change to your credit score.

– An increase in your debt to income ratio (don't buy anything!)

– An undocumented change in employment

– Assets that are unverifiable


The best plan is be totally honest with your lender when you get your pre-approval so that you don’t get a last minute call telling you that your loan has been denied (this actually happens, so pay everything on time and don’t take out new credit lines or add to old ones until you’ve got the keys in your hand). It can be daunting to share personal information with someone new, especially if your facts are, um...less than stellar.  Remember, there is no judgement here, by either us or your lender.  We are all working together towards a common goal.


When is the Best Time to Make an Offer?

Ideally, you should have a pre-approval letter in hand before you so much as set foot into the first house you’re considering for purchase. In fact, we require our buyers to complete that step first.  After all, the seller isn’t going to think you’re all that serious without one, nor will they be keen to want to negotiate under these circumstances.  If you have an agent showing you houses without one, they aren't doing their best job for you.

Help your lender help you get the best deal on the house of your dreams, save everybody a lot of headaches and get that pre-approval first. Knowing how much your closing costs are going to be will also help your Realtor write your contract accordingly if they should need to be wrapped into your mortgage.  We can help you with this also, during the househunting process.

Basically, that document is the key to everything. So, no pressure.


When You Need a Loan for Your Home…

Finding a banker you can trust these days couldn’t be easier.  The first and best stop is to ask us.  We have a list of vetted lenders and brokers we have worked with, and can help match make you with the one that suits your situation best. 

Check out your current bank, and at least one or two others.  Some homework up front will make sure you don’t get a big surprise a few days before closing.

We are here for you!  Here's what some of our clients say about working with us.


Nov. 15, 2018

Wondering whats going on in the market?

You have probably been noticing more price reductions, and more properties coming on market lately.  Many people have been waiting for a change, a shift from the crazy lack of inventory and bidding wars that we witnessed earlier in the year.

Some of you (hello buyers!) are hoping for a crash in prices like we saw in the middle of the recession.  This is not going to happen, peeps.  Sorry to burst that bubble.

Why?  Today's market is very, very different from what we had back then.  Lending has changed, different buyers are bringing money to the market.  Heck, even how appraisals are done is completely different.  Still with me, or are your eyes glazing over?

What we are more likely to see coming up in the next fiew months is a slight slow down rather than a crash, a leveling off if you will.  Let me explain...

Ways for Buyers to Capitalize 

Are you looking for houses every day (c'mon you can tell me) and hoping the rates will stay low through spring so you can get serious?  Those price reductions you have been seeing pop up everywhere do not mean the market is coming down.  Rather, it means sellers (and the agents working with them) are finally adjusting their expectatations for those particular homes.  This is good for you -- this grounding means more reasonable prices.   But, it also means more buyers will come out of hibernation earlier in the spring.  Heck, it's hard to wait that long after you've been looking.

The average square foot pricing of sold homes (not active) has stayed pretty steady lately.

Hidden Listings

Contrary to popular thought, buyers can't always see everything that's out there for sale.  Case in point:  A condo coming on market at a great price was just shared to me by another broker.  We talk to each other...a lot.  We know what's coming on market, what just fell out of contract, and what price adjustments are likely to happen soon.  Try getting Zillow to share that info with you.

Back on Market Listings

This, my friend, can be a secret weapon.  The websites that churn out those new listings and spit them out into your inbox each morning do not show you the ones that went under contract the day after going on market, and then, very quietly, came back on.  The older a listing is, even if it showed it face very briefly, makes it old news in the web world eyes.  I can find that gem for you.

Get comfortable visualizing

Step away from the HGTV.  I know Joanna and Chip or the brothers told you your new home should have everything done/easy/glowing so all you need to do is change the color of an accent wall and add a doggy door for your pooch. 

Real life is quite different, so work with an agent (hello there handsome!) that can visualize what really needs to be done, what costs bucks and what is easy.  Don't underestimate the ugly duckling property that's waiting for a bit of elbow grease.  Not handy you say?  All fixer-uppers are not created equally.  Let's go find the one that fits your style and budget.


How Sellers Can Benefit

Did you grit your teeth and hunker down in your chair a bit when you came to this part of the story? Are you thinking that some parts of our market are slowing, but yours is bulletproof?  You've got that house that everyone wants, at least that's what all your friends and the agent friend that wants your listing told you.  

Here's the thing, no one knows where our market will shift, or when it will happen.  By placing your home in front of the right eyes (targeted marketing) and thoroughly analyzing trends in your specific neighborhood (custom analysis) and staging your property for photos (pack up those doilies and family photos) you will position your home properly right out of the gate. 

There's no time for testing the market with a price that's too high.  Nail it early, and you avoid the extra months of mortgage payments and overhead.  Then you can move on with your life.

Get Real

One of the best things you can do as a seller is to choose an agent that's going to be upfront and honest with you.  It may seem tempting to choose the one with the lowest commission and highest promised price, but this can be costly.

At the end of the day, you want to net the most money for you home possible.  That cut rate brokerage won't have the marketing prowess to put your home in front of the right buyer eyes, and won't take the time to constantly update their research to make sure their marketing is getting hits on the internet.  And most of all, the agent that promised you a couple percentage points less for their commission -- how are their negotiation skills?  You don't want to be left high and dry making all of the little nuanced decisions because they are inexperienced, or really just want their check. 

Choosing the wrong agent (Aunt Tammy, Cousin Jack) may feel right when you are talking turkey at the holiday table, but let's think about that stomachache you'll be fighting two months out when your listing is collecting dust and Jack is on the slopes or thinking about giving up on real estate because he can't make a go of it. 

Get in touch with us, and we'll share our book Preparing for a Successful Sale with you. 



Oct. 25, 2018

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a Vacation Home

Picture this:  waking to the sound of live water flowing right outside your very own home. Jumping into your ski boots and hitting the slope you can see from your living room window.  You don’t have to call ahead for reservations, you don’t need to ask anyone for a key or have a check-out time. It’s all yours to do with as you will, and you’re going take advantage of it constantly because now you own your very own vacation home.

Not to burst any vacation home-shaped bubbles💥🤯, but before you get too lost in the fantasy, let's consider some of the many pros and cons of owning a home away from home.


Vacation Homes Aren’t For Everybody

As the real estate market begins to respond to financial pressures from higher interest rates that are likely to increase further, as well as trade wars and tariffs with some of the country’s best trading partners, more people are just waiting for their favorite vacation spot to experience a market correction. If you’re one of them, don’t jump into the vacation home market without seriously considering what you’re doing.  Plan your plan, so to speak.

It can be great to have a vacation home. It can be the very best thing. But if you never use it or you never go anywhere else, it might be the wrong call. Consider these five points when buying a vacation home today or tomorrow:


1. What can you afford on your own?

It’s no secret that many vacation homes will go for several times what your personal home may be worth. Because of this, buyers like to try to pool their assets to pull off a vacation home purchase with friends or family. Don’t let your vacation home become a cautionary tale: buying a vacation home with anyone that you’re not married to could become a long term problem.

What if you and the friend or relative don’t like the same ski resort, or prefer fishing the Gallatin over the Yellowstone? What if you can’t agree on the property to purchase? Will you be resentful the rest of your life? Most importantly, perhaps, is what to do if your co-borrower has poor credit, can’t come up with their part of the downpayment or is otherwise creating a giant problem for your mortgage?

After you’ve actually bought the property, who pays for what repairs? Don’t buy with friends or family, but if you do, get a lawyer to draw up a maintenance and payment agreement that you both sign to get everything on paper and make it official.  Sounds harsh, but remember, this is an investment.


2. Even if you do buy a vacation home on your own, it will be complicated.

This isn’t your momma’s FHA loan. When you buy a vacation home, you’re almost always going to use a conventional mortgage. You’ll need stellar credit, an excellent debt to income ratio and, most importantly, a lot of cash. Unlike primary homes, which rarely require reserves, being the lender on a secondary home feels awfully risky to the bank.

They may still lend to you, and there are some loan options that allow really low down payments for second homes (ask us for referrals) but they’ll want to see that you have anywhere from two to 12 months of reserves on hand. If you’ve not heard the term before, “reserves” are funds already in an account somewhere that are equal to a certain number of months’ worth of payments for both of your homes. This also includes anything wrapped into your payment due to escrow, like homeowners’ insurance and taxes.

3. Do you have a plan for off-season care and maintenance?

If a friend or relative lives nearby, you probably are set for someone to look in on your place, but if not, you’ve got to get this part figured out before you sign on the line. Just like an occupied home, your vacation home will develop problems over time. Wear and tear happens even when you’re not home and pipes love to freeze and burst when no one’s looking. You have to have a plan.  We work with vacation suppport companies that will check your property regularly, prepare it for your arrival, and clean up after you leave if you'd like.


You should really hire a handyman, property manager or support person to keep an eye out and call in help when necessary. That’s a cost you’ll have all year, so make sure you figure it into your budget. Since your property is a vacation home, it will also require more expensive insurance coverage, as well as specialty insurance if it’s in an area where floods, hurricanes or earthquakes are common.

4. Renting it out when you’re not using it makes your vacation home a rental, not a vacation home.  This one is important!

You absolutely can rent your vacation home from day one, provided that you purchased it as an investment home. This is a lending distinction to think about.  Some buyers think this will save them a bunch of money, since someone else will take care of it part of the year, at least. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between a glorious rental partnership and a home that’s been burned to the ground. If your neighborhood, for example, won’t allow AirBnBs and their ilk, or has strict rules about maintenance, you are responsible for the rebound from missteps there, no matter how good your renters.


You will have to find the guy to mow the lawn, you’re paying for clean up every time renters move out, you’re paying for repairs and so forth. Did you want to be a long-distance landlord? A property manager can help ease the pain, but it will still cost plenty. If you do decide to proceed with a rental situation for your vacation home, make sure the house you buy is in a location that’s really hot, otherwise you may not be able to get enough rent to cover all the expenses.  

This is all do-able, but don't gloss over the setup time and costs that go into this approach.  That's often where people forget to allot resources

5. Oh, hey, and selling can be difficult and costly.

For every one of the real estate experts who claim that buying a vacation home is a great way to make money, there are experts who realize that the market is unpredictable and you may find that you don’t love that vacation home as much as you thought in a few years.

After spending two years dealing with short term renters, you may decide it’s easier for you to go back to renting a nice hotel for your vacation stay, rather than owning a headache of a property. That’s all fine and good, until you find out that not only has the market bottomed out, you can’t even get enough money out of the place to cover the mortgage and your closing costs.

Remember, when you sell, you may also be on the hook for capital gains taxes, and you can’t take a capital loss if the property in question is classified as a second home.


If you still have the stomach for a second home after running through this list of things to consider, then proceed with caution and let us help you find that property match. Don’t buy a project house unless you have someone else to do the work and even then, make sure that the only thing you do at that vacation home is relax. Going on vacation just to stress out about the lawn isn’t a fun kind of vacation, you know?


Montana Good Life Properties:  Your Vacation Home Support Team

Wondering where you’ll find all the people you need to help keep your vacation home in good shape, whether you’re renting it out or just visiting on the weekends? Ask us, we have resources from the best handyman around to a vacation property support company who can keep your property in great shape.

Aug. 17, 2018

7 Things You Didn't Know About Radon

You found the right home. It’s the right size, energy efficient, in a great neighborhood and within your budget. You wonder to yourself, “why is this home still on the market?” Then you read the disclosures. Your perfect spot has a serious radon problem.

Hold up, not a big deal!

Radon and You: 7 Things to Know

Radon is a reasonably common problem in homes, especially in Montana, so if you come across a house that you absolutely adore, you’re not even remotely out of luck. Instead, you may reap the benefits of someone else’s lack of information about the gas. Here are seven things to know if you’re considering a home with a radon problem, or high levels as we usually call it:

Radon is a radioactive gas. You can’t smell it, see it or taste it, but it’s believed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer anyway. Of course, it doesn’t go straight to cancer right away, but long term exposure over time will increase the likelihood of lung cancer in the home’s occupants if it’s left alone.

Testing for radon is very simple. Most buyers choose a continuous test for radon levels in a building. Most home inspectors offer a radon test as an add-on service.  It usually takes about 48 hours to do the testing, and results are often available right away.

Radon is everywhere. Radon occurs naturally in the environment as a result of the breakdown of radioactive elements, such as uranium. Because of that, it’s literally everywhere, but typically in very small amounts. It doesn’t become a problem until you’re exposed to high concentrations of the gas.

Smokers are at higher risk of radon-related lung cancer. A 4pCi/L, the level at which radon mitigation is typically recommended, non-smokers have about the same risk of cancer as they do of dying in a car crash, that’s about 7 in 1,000 people. Smokers, on the other hand, are at a risk five times that of dying in a wreck and 62 out of 1,000 may develop lung cancer.

You can mitigate radon in any home.

With not a terrible amount of effort, any home can be mitigated. One in 15 homes has an unacceptably high radon level throughout the country, with homes in our area usually seeing much higher incidences since we are in a cold climate and keep our homes closed up longer than those in milder climates. 

Note to home buyers: this is one of those things you include in your home inspection contingency period.  

DIY is possible for radon control, but not recommended. Only attempt it if you’re intimately familiar with your home’s construction methods, radon gas and sampling procedures. A bad DIY radon job isn’t like a bad paint job — incorrect processes can result in higher radon levels than before.

Just because radon is everywhere doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Radon mitigation systems are very good at removing large amounts of radon from any home. Most work by literally sucking the radon right out of the crawlspace or from underneath a poured concrete slab like what you’d find in a basement. The systems are fairly simple and quite easy to install.

Slabs must be sealed and barriers installed in crawl spaces to ensure that the radon has no place to go but up and out the vacuum system. Once released into the air above your home, it’s no longer a threat and you can breathe deeply once again.

If you need a radon vacuum system, make sure yours comes with a continuous monitoring system as well (also pretty standard).  Since levels vary throughout the year, this is a good investment in your future.

Want more info? 

Just let us know, we have more to share on acceptable levels, cost of systems...whatever you need.  


Like this article?  Check out our Buyer Intelligence section of the blog for more info on getting ready to buy with us!

June 6, 2018

Top 12 Apps for Homeowners & Renters


More than 77 percent of people own a smartphone.1 The average person checks their smartphone 46 times a day, with people under the age of 24 checking it an average of 74 times a day.1 We check it while we’re waiting in line and during our leisure time, whether we’re scrolling through social media, reading emails or getting up-to-date on the latest news.

Aaack!  With so many choices, it can be tough to be productive. 

Smartphones are not only a useful tool for communication. With the following apps, you can get organized (whether you plan to buy or sell), save money, learn about the homes in your neighborhood and get inspired for your next renovation project. If you’re like 81 percent of people, you have your smartphone with you during most of your waking hours; let it help you stay organized and make your life easier.3


Apps For Homeowners: Get Renovation Inspiration

These apps not only offer ideas for your next remodel or home décor project, some of them even give you a preview of what your home may look like once it’s finished.


1.) Houzz (Free)

The Houzz app is the number one app for home design and it’s no wonder; the app gives you access to all the inspiration, blogs and design ideas from the Houzz site on your phone or tablet. The app features View in My Room 3D, which allows you to view products in your home before you buy. Just take a photo of the space and a 3D version of the product will appear. Browse products, save photos of designs you’d like to view later and connect with local professionals in your area. Whether you’re gathering ideas for your next renovation and décor project or you’re just browsing, the Houzz app will satisfy all your design needs.

(Android, iOS)


2.) iHandy Carpenter ($1.99)

Make sure the photos, shelves, mirrors and other artwork you hang are even and aligned with this helpful app. It’s an all-in-one tool kit that features a plumb bob, surface level, bubble level bar, ruler and protractor. No need to purchase these tools separately; just hold your smartphone up to the wall and the app will take care of the rest.

(iOS, Android)


3.) Color911 ($3.99)

If you’re thinking of changing the color scheme of your home or want to find the right shades for lamp shades, rugs or throw pillows to match your vintage sofa, the Color911 app provides pre-selected color palettes to match any color scheme. Take a photo of the room or the furniture and the app will create a custom palette full of complementary colors. Write notes about your palette and organize it all into folders to share with family, friends or your design professional.


 P.S.  We do color consulting for our client!

Bonus Apps for Homeowners:

AroundMe (Free)

Hungry and looking for a local hotspot? Meeting friends at a coffee shop nearby? Or just need to find the closest ATM? AroundMe allows you to search for the nearest restaurants, banks, gas stations, book a hotel or find a movie schedule close to where you live. Open the app and start learning more about your neighborhood. (iOS, Android, Windows)


BrightNest (Free)

From keeping things clean to making them colorful, Brightnest, developed by Angie’s List, is loaded with suggestions on how to make your home a better place to live. With categories of customized tips (money-saving, cleaning, eco-friendly, healthy, cooking, and creative) there are plenty of great ways to pull inspiration from the app. BrightNest will help you tackle important home tasks with easy-to-follow instructions, a personal schedule and helpful reminders. (iOS, Android, Web)


Apps For Sellers: List & Sell Your Home Quickly

Are you a homeowner who is thinking of selling? If you’re preparing to sell, you know there are a lot of tasks to complete before putting your home on the market. These apps help you manage your to-dos so you can list and sell your home more efficiently with fewer distractions.


4.) Homesnap (Free)

Using the Homesnap app, you can snap a photo of any home, nationwide, to learn more about it. When you’re ready to sell, snap a few of the homes in your neighborhood to find out their valuation. This app isn’t perfect, which is why you should always consult with a local real estate agent. However, it can give you a general idea of the value of your home compared to others in the neighborhood. (iOS and Android devices)


5.) Docusign (Free)

Use the DocuSign app to complete approvals and agreements in hours—not days—from anywhere and on any device. Quickly and securely access and sign any documents. The benefit to using the app (over your desktop computer) is you will receive push notifications when a document is waiting for your signature and you can view and organize all your docs on-the-go. Using the easily downloadable app, receive and sign documents for free. You can receive and sign documents for free, but will need a paid account to send documents; pricing starts at $10 a month. (iOS, Android, Windows, Web).

(We use the pro version for our transaction managment and looove it!) 

6.) Wunderlist (Free)

Designed for use on the Web and mobile devices, Wunderlist is a well-designed to-do list and task management program that makes it easy to create a list and add tasks, due dates and reminders. Organize your ideas or focus into separate lists or create tasks within one list. You can also email them with whomever you collaborate, such as a spouse or your real estate agent. (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Web)


Bonus App for Sellers:

Real Estate Dictionary (Free)

Not sure what all those industry specific terms mean? Search thousands of words and phrases from real estate, mortgage, and financial dictionaries for clear, in-depth definitions. This is a handy app for anyone who’s buying or selling and wants to learn more about the process. (iOS, Android)


Apps For Renters: Get Ready to Buy

Not ready to buy a home just yet? These apps will help you get into the perfect rental while you save money, build a budget and get on track for homeownership.


7.) Mint (Free)

Do you know where your money goes each month? Manage your bills, budget and credit score all in one place. Mint is a free app that helps you view your complete financial picture and track your spending. We recommend this app to anyone, but it’s especially useful for renters who need to crack down on their spending in order to save for a down payment. Use Mint to look for areas you can cut spending in order to save a little extra each month. (iOS, Android)


8.) Acorns ($1 a month to start)

Acorns is modernizing the practice of saving loose change with their automated savings tool. The app rounds up your purchases on linked credit or debit cards, then sweeps the change into a computer-managed investment portfolio. Acorns is free for four years for college students and everyone else pays $1 a month until their account balance hits $5,000, then 0.25% of their account balance per year. This is a useful tool for those who have a hard time saving. (iOS, Android)


9.) Neighborhoods & Apartments

Built for the on-the-go apartment hunter, this app from Walk Score takes the hassle out of finding your next home or apartment and helps you live near the people and places you love. They collect listings from top rental listing sites and we like them because they share how walkable each address is, determined by access to public transit, things to do, bike trails, shorter commutes, etc. (iOS, Android)







Bonus Apps for Renters:


Wally (Free)

Wally is a personal finance app that helps you compare your income to expenses, so you can understand where your money goes each month, and set and achieve goals. Wally lets you keep track of the details as you spend money: where, when, what, why, & how much. We love how simple it is to set a personalized savings target and scan receipts. (iOS, Android)


Credit Karma (Free)
If you’re preparing to buy, boosting your credit score is likely a goal you’ve set. Credit Karma is a free app that allows you to safely monitor your score and receive updates on ways you can improve it over time. They provide financial calculators and educational articles to help you better understand what credit is all about. Check as often as you want, and it doesn’t hurt your score.  (iOS, Android, Web)


Apps for Buyers: Find the Perfect Home

When you’re ready to buy, there are several apps that can help you stay on top of the process. Whether you’re browsing online at different neighborhoods and homes and can’t seem to remember where all your saved data and information went or you want to save an important task or a neighborhood or listing clipped from the Web, these apps help you keep it all straight.


10.) Dwellr (Free)

Dwellr is run by the U.S Census Bureau and provides demographic information about the neighborhoods you are considering moving to. You get a variety of education/school, real estate, transportation, and population statistics to give you an idea of what it would be like living there. If you want to get the feel of a potential neighborhood, then Dwellr may just be the app to help you find the best home.  (iOS, Android)


11.) Evernote (Free for the Basic version, $34.99 per year for Plus and $69.99 per year for Premium)

Collect ideas, notes and images in one place to access later on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Categorize your notes so you can find them quickly and easily and share them with others in a group notebook. Add the Web Clipper feature to your browser and clip and save articles, blogs and images from the Web. Whether you’re collecting research on a business idea or you’re looking for inspiration for a home renovation, Evernote can help you keep it all together. (Web, iOS, Android)


12.) Mortgage Calculator (Free)

There are a lot of free mortgage calculators available for download that will help you quickly determine what your monthly payment will be while you’re house hunting. We recommend picking your favorite and using it to help you shop in your price range. These numbers should be used as a guide, work with your agent and mortgage professional to learn exactly what type of loan you’ll qualify for. (Web, iOS, Android)


Bonus App for Buyers:


Google Maps (Free)

Google Maps is a must-have for anyone who’s house hunting. When you’re ready to visit a property or check out a neighborhood, you can use Google Maps to give you turn by turn directions to the house. You can use their satellite view to get a good idea how far important things like schools, parks, shopping, bus stops, and restaurants are to a home you are interested in and check out the other houses on the street. (Web, Android, iOS,)


Ready to move beyond the app?

If you’re thinking of buying or selling your home, or know someone who is, please keep us in mind because we’d love to help!


Here are some more posts in our Buyer Intelligence and Seller Intelligence blog categories.

First time buyer?  Get your goodness here.


Source: 1. Pew Research Center, January 12, 2017 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/

           2. Deloitte, 2016 global mobile consumer survey: US edition https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/global-mobile-consumer-survey-us-edition.html

3. Gallup, July 9, 2015 http://www.gallup.com/poll/184046/smartphone-owners-check-phone-least-hourly.aspx