Real Estate Market: Confirmation Bias on Display in Bozeman, Montana

UPDATE: See the comments to this post for discussion of this story plus continuing updates to the “S.W. Montana Meltdown.”

I find this fascinating:

I pulled this chart from Zilow.com in about 10 seconds. It shows the 1-year percentage price change for Gallatin County, Montana (down 10%) and Bozeman, MT (down 12%).

Yet the below article contains the following quote: Dennis Carlson, government affairs director of the Gallatin Association of Realtors, said “Housing prices are holding in the Gallatin Valley.”

It just goes to show you that the media and special interests will say what they want to say, regardless the facts. And people will believe what they want to believe regardless of the facts. It is a well known principal of psychology (called “confirmation bias“), but it’s always interesting to see it on display.

Makes me think of Bush’s quote after the New Orleans disaster: “Heckuva job, Brownie!” Or his “Mission Accomplished” fantasy. Right now we see the same thing going on as the media, and much of the public, continue in their recession denial.

Note: I do hope the housing contraction bottoms soon (it will be a great buying opportunity when it does), along with the credit crisis and stagflation, but I do not deny their existence. Now on to the article:

February 16, 2008
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Cost of Living Went up 10% in 2007
By AMANDA RICKER

The cost of housing in Bozeman jumped by more than 10 percent in 2007, according to a report released Friday by Prospera Business Network.

The increase pushed the average purchase price for a 2,400-square-foot home in Bozeman up to $390,928 in 2007, and the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment to $707.

That puts Bozeman’s cost of housing at 18.5 percent above the national average, up from 8.2 percent above average in 2006, the report said.

In 2005, it was below the national average.

But Dennis Carlson, government affairs director of the Gallatin Association of Realtors, said Bozeman’s high housing costs could be taken as a good sign. Housing prices are holding in the Gallatin Valley, unlike many other places across the country hit by foreclosures and other fallout from the sub-prime mortgage crisis, he said.

* “When you look at the national numbers, prices are going down with the sub-prime mess,” Carlson said. “We have a strong housing market in the Gallatin Valley compared to some of the really disappointing things happening in places like California and Florida.”

Housing costs in Missoula and Kalispell came in at about 20 percent lower than Bozeman. Both cities were below the national average.

Overall, Bozeman’s cost of living registered 4 percent above the national average in 2007, according to Prospera’s report. That’s the highest score recorded for Bozeman since 2001, when the city was at 4.2 percent above average.

Comparatively, this past year, Missoula and Kalispell both ranked below the national average, at 1.2 percent and 1.5 percent respectively.

The cost of living index is based on six cost components: housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods.

Two of those areas n transportation and groceries n cost below the national average in Bozeman. Transportation was 5.6 percent below while groceries were 2.9 percent below.

Bozeman’s high cost of living can make it difficult for employers to hire or keep quality workers.

David Smith, president and CEO of the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce, said he’s optimistic that Bozeman’s cost of living will decrease..

“The fact that we’ve never really seen (housing costs) this far above (the national average) tells me that we can’t sustain that,” Smith said.

Prospera, a nonprofit economic-development organization, was previously called the Gallatin Development Corporation. The data comes from the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, which is measured by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

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41 thoughts on “Real Estate Market: Confirmation Bias on Display in Bozeman, Montana

  1. From Wolf Laurel in NC mountains – I believe Merrill Lynch is correct about the arrival of recession in the United States. The housing downturn is negatively impacting property sales in second home communities in Florida. This is also slowing sales in NC mountain resorts that depend on Florida buyers.

    Still the downturn in prices and building of inventories is starting to attract second home buyers from Florida looking for cool temperatures in our mountains. Also the dramatic decline in the dollar combined with weakness in American real estate markets are beginning to interest some bargain hunting European investors.

  2. Damn. I just wrote everything down and clicked submit but something happened and it lost it all. Now I’m going to do the really short version.

    1) Find any home in the city you’re interested in that has a Zestimate.
    2) Select that home.
    3) Go to the charts and data section.
    4) Select a chart and the options.
    5) You’re done.

    In my chart, I selected 1-year percentage for the county and city only.

    Hope that helps!

  3. “They”, zillow or whomever, killed off Bozeman zestimates. In fact, Bozeman and other cities in Gallatin Counties are not even an option under the state anymore. I have found that our local RE’s are not wanting info to get out and are blacking out the info. Just try to get any market info. I think our bubble is alot worse than anyone wants to publicly admit to.

  4. Interesting, Jesse. I was wondering about that. Because I read the Bozeman Daily Chronicle all the time and they never mention anything. Or when they do, they interview someone in the industry who just “talks their book,” so to speak. I.e., says everything is great, same as always.

  5. Jesse, I just emailed Zillow to ask what happened to the Bozeman Zestimates. Will post updates here. This could be a real story, especially if they did indeed take them down. Why, under pressure from whom. The information should be reinstated immediately.

  6. UPDATE: I’ve been emailing with Amanda Hoffman at Zillow. Here is here explanation. She also includes a description (and links) of the “easiest way to research overall real estate trends on Zillow” procedure:

    We collect data from approximately 3,000 counties nationwide. We partner with data collection agencies who gather this data from public records and feed it into our database. It’s a monstrous task to put it lightly. For a variety of reasons, we sometimes have high latency or simply a low volume of sales transactions from our data providers. Recent sales are imperative to creating accurate valuations, so if the feed of sales transactions gets below our threshold we stop Zestimating in that area until the sales volume goes back up above that threshold.

    To research overall trends, the easiest way is to click the “Local Real Estate” link http://www.zillow.com/real-estate in the footer of any page on the site, then select Montana Real Estate http://www.zillow.com/real-estate/MT. Since we are not currently “Zestimating” Gallatin County, you won’t be able to drill down into that particular county, but you can see home value charts for the state of Montana, and you can drill down into neighboring counties and see charts for those areas. We hope to get more data for Gallatin County in the future, at which point we’ll be able to provide Zestimates and charts once again.

    Regarding not having enough data, the data we’re lacking in Gallatin County is primarily recent sale data. Since our Zestimate algorithm is based largely on comparable sales, it’s nearly impossible to create accurate Zestimates without enough recent sales. Regarding your other email about Bozeman not being on the Montana page, that’s because we are not Zestimating in Gallatin County. If/when we do again, you can expect to see Bozeman listed on that page once again.

  7. Montana is a non-disclosure state, which means we do not provide sales data. This would account for the reason they don’t have any information on our sales data. The only sales data we offer, as of now, is quarterly reports given via the Gallatin Association of Realtors, you must be a member to access this information.

  8. Here’s a link from Zillow’s Blog stating what states are non-disclosure states and what that means exactly.

    http://www.zillowblog.com/chronicles-of-data-collection-ii-non-disclosure-states/2006/05/

    “…..The following states are considered non-disclosure: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri (some counties), Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

    If you live in any of the above states, at least you now know why we don’t currently have sales records in your area. As we improve our data and algorithms, we are continually looking for additional data sources. Meanwhile, you can always chart how much data we have in an area by reviewing our data and accuracy table…..”

  9. Thanks for the comment, but this mystery was solved two months ago (see the May 22 comment and report direct from Zillow). They have sales data in Montana and they were using it to calculate Zestimates, as the screenshot up top shows, but they turned off the Zestimates, in Bozeman at least, which is the topic of this blog, because the sales volume dried up. They say they will turn it back on when the sales volume picks back up enough that they are comfortable with the statistical quality of their estimates. Maybe that’s going to be a long time because it’s hard to get data in Montana, but they can and are getting it. It is available. That’s why banks and mortgage companies can and do make loans, because they use appraisals, one of the inputs of which comparable listings and sales. Final point: the Montana data IS posted on their site. It’s right here: http://www.zillow.com/real-estate/MT, where you can see a chart and trends in price of Montana and USA. From that page you can drill down to different cities. Cheers.

  10. PS: Here’s a screenshot of the MT page:

    And here’s one of the Billings page, which shows Zestimates:

    What this blog post is about, though, is Bozeman. That data was taken down as described above.

  11. It seems the prices have come down a little, anyway. My husband’s friend is a real estate agent and he apparently told him that it is now possible to buy a detached single family home for under 200K within Boze city limits (unthinkable 2 years ago!); listing prices have not necessarily come down too much, but what sellers are willing to ultimately take is. I, too, would REALLY like to see the Chronicle or the Tributary do an article about just what the state of our real estate market is, but yeah right. Inflation and the current status of the economy will do nothing to help it out, either. All the folks with extra money laying around are going to snap up the super cheap stuff in the hard-hit foreclosure areas with the hopes of making a killing in a few years. My family is on the verge of being able to at least afford a condo, but personally I just can’t stomach plopping down 200K or even 150K for a box. I’d rather rent, or buy in Livingston.

  12. Yes, it is going to be a great opportunity for people who can buy, that’s for sure. I bouught my first piece of property in 1994 (just random luck that I was coming out of school, went into the mortgage industry, and someone called me to refi b/c they could not sell for over a year and I bought for very, very cheap). Get your ducks in a row, Meredith. You will be glad you did. And when you make an offer, make it pretty low, you may be surprised, especially for properties that have sat around on the market for a long time, especially a year or more.

  13. Article in today’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle

    “City laying off staff to balance budget”

    Excerpt:

    The belt-tightening is focused on the building and planning departments, where the city has seen significant revenue drops. But the proposal still includes the addition of 22.1 jobs n most of them in the police and fire departments, and funded by the tax levies voters approved last fall.

    Revenue was down 71 percent in the planning department in the last quarter of this fiscal year compared to last, City Manager Chris Kukulski said. During the same time, building inspection revenue decreased by 48 percent.

    That’s in sharp contrast to the record number of project applications the city received in 2007.

    Entire article is here (PDF): http://www.box.net/shared/xi9ityu2o4

  14. Two new articles from the
    Bozeman Daily Chronicle newspaper:

    1)

    “Moonlight Basin Announces Layoffs”
    2008-10-10:
    http://bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2008/10/10/news/10basin.txt

    “But in a written statement released by Moonlight Basin, the loss of financing from Lehman Brothers has forced the company to temporarily layoff an unspecified number of workers.”

    2)

    “Moonlight CEO denies rumors of bankruptcy”
    2008-10-11:
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2008/10/11/news/10poole%20talks.txt

    “Poole also said he was confident Moonlight would return to normal operations, thanks to funds that were housed in Lehman Brothers being freed up and a partnership coming “in the very near future.” Poole declined to be more specific. He continued to decline to say how many workers were laid off this week.”

  15. WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — U.S. home builders monthly market index plunged to a record the National Association of Home Builders reported Tuesday. “We are in a crisis,” said Sandy Dunn, chairman of the NAHB, and a builder from Point Pleasant, W.Va.

  16. The chickens are really streaming home to roost now:

    EXCERPT:

    “[T]here has been a 70% increase in bankruptcy.” [H]as never before seen so many of people considering bankruptcy. “I think this is the tip of the iceberg. It’s going to grow worse through the winter.” [D]eclines in the building industry are leading to hard times.

    FULL ARTICLE:

    From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:
    Bankruptcy lawyers report uptick in traffic
    December 11, 2008
    By DANIEL PERSON Chronicle Staff Writer

    People around Bozeman are walking into law offices for help filing bankruptcy at a quick clip, bankruptcy lawyers said this week.

    The lawyers cite both the slumping building industry and a change in the way people view bankruptcy for the uptick.

    “There’s a fairly large increase in traffic, especially in phone calls,” James Screnar of Screnar Law Firm in Bozeman said. “I would say (there has been) a 70 percent increase in business-related bankruptcy.”

    Screnar has practiced law in Bozeman since 1970, and has never before seen so many of people considering bankruptcy.

    “I think this is the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “It’s going to grow worse through the winter.”

    Stuart Whitehair, another bankruptcy lawyer in town, said traffic has picked up in his office, as well.

    “There are more people filing bankruptcy that are not in the lower spectrum of income,” Whitehair said.

    Both attorneys said declines in the building industry are leading to hard times for many.

    “What we’re seeing that we didn’t see a year ago is everyone in the real estate food chain,” Whitehair said. “Appraisers. Home inspectors. Dry wall. Carpenters. You name anyone from the time the property is laid out to when the property gets sold, we’re seeing.”

    “Most of the business-related bankruptcies we get now are related to the building industry,” Screnar said.

    Statewide, bankruptcies are up over this time last year, but not dramatically.

    As of Tuesday, 1,802 bankruptcies had been filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Montana, according to court clerk Bernard McCarthy. On Dec. 9, 2007, 1,522 bankruptcies had been filed.

    McCarthy said he was skeptical of those who say bankruptcies are surging. In 2004, he said, 3,806 bankruptcies had been filed by the first week of December. That was the last year before U.S. bankruptcy law was changed and anticipation of the change prompted a spike in filings that continued into 2005.

    “I’m probably one of the ones out there saying (bankruptcies) are not coming back,” he said. “Or, they’re coming back, but a lot slower.”

    But Whitehair cited another significant change in bankruptcies since 2004: the stigma.

    “The folks that a year ago, two years ago would never have even considered a bankruptcy are now the phone calls we’re getting,” he said. “Part of it is the national exposure to bankruptcy n Linens N’ Things, Bennigan’s, Yellowstone Club n perhaps that last little stigma that was keeping people from calling and asking for help, that last hurdle has been cleared.

    “If it’s OK for Bennigan’s to file, perhaps I’m not a bad person if I have to look into it as well,” he said.

  17. Yellowstone Club Announces Layoffs
    By Jessica Mayrer
    2008-12-17

    EXCERPT:

    The Yellowstone Club laid off 12 people this week in construction and operations-related jobs, club spokesman Bill Keegan confirmed Wednesday.

    Managers of the high-end residential resort did not anticipate any additional staffing cuts, Keegan said, but business during the holiday season will largely dictate what comes next.

    MORE:
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2008/12/18/news/30layoffs.txt

  18. “More scams appear”
    By Jessica Mayrer
    2009-1-8
    Bozeman Daily Chronicle

    EXCERPT:

    As the number of housing foreclosures begins to climb in Bozeman, people in financial distress should be on the lookout for scam artists who take advantage of people in vulnerable financial positions, consumer watchdogs say.

    “I’m seeing so many scams,” Beverly Johnston, of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, said. “There’s been a surge of it.”

    MORE:
    http://www.dailychronicle.com/articles/2009/01/09/news/20foreclosure%20scams.txt

  19. “Homebuilders urge Congress to ‘fix housing first’”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/01/16/news/10building%20industry%20bailout.txt
    By Gail Sschontzler
    2009-1-15
    Bozeman Daily Chronicle

    EXCERPTS:

    Simkins said his building-supply company has been around 60 years and this is “certainly one of the worst downturns we’ve seen. Our staffing levels are down 30 percent.”

    Things are pretty terrible in Montana’s housing industry, builders said.

    Simkins-Hallin has done a lot of work in Big Sky, but the market there has been “in a free fall,” Simkins said. Homeowners in California, Florida and elsewhere can’t sell their homes, so they can’t build in Big Sky.

    “Thousands of contractors and suppliers are no longer working there,” Simkins said. “The housing downturn is cascading through the whole economy.”

    Anders Lewendahl, a Bozeman builder of custom homes, said he has been in business for 20 years and has always had a lot of jobs lined up. But for 2009, he has zero.

    Lewendahl said his choice is to wait out the recession, while paying interest on land loans, or do something else.

    Richard Smith, president of RJ and Associates Design Build of Bozeman, said his company had 15 to 18 employees, and now is down to four.

    “Unless we see some real, sweeping changes, we feel there will be some dire consequences,” Smith said.

    Foreclosures are a huge problem.

    Starts on building single-family homes are down 76 percent, “a 50-year low,” Markstein said.

    Montana, he said, has lost 23,000 construction jobs in the last year, and seen building permits drop by 40 percent.

    Bozeman building permits are down 65 percent, builders said.

    “This is clearly the worst economy we’ve gone through since World War II,” Markstein said. “It will get worse, unfortunately, before it gets better.”

  20. “Foreclosures spike in Gallatin County’”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/01/16/news/000fore.txt
    By Jessica Mayrer
    2009-1-15
    Bozeman Daily Chronicle

    EXCERPTS:

    Ray Linsky is nearly three months behind on his mortgage. His lender is threatening to foreclose on the home where he lives with his wife and three kids. “It just gets worse and worse.”

    Foreclosure filings in Gallatin County have tripled since 2006, when 37 homes were foreclosed upon. Last year, 128 homes were taken back by lenders because of nonpayment, according to Realty Trac, which monitors the national real-estate market.

    Local financial counselors say the phone just keeps ringing.

    HUD-certified counselor Tracy Menuez of the Human Resource Defense Council said she visited with more people facing foreclosure last week than she had during entire years prior, she said.

    And now, those who have been paying for food and other necessities on credit are running out of time. Her average Bozeman client has $28,000 in credit card debt, she said.

    “There’s a lot of scared people out there,” he said.

  21. “Amenity ranch sales decrease, smaller lots listed at twice value, report says’”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/01/30/news/20land.txt
    By Jessica Mayrer
    2009-1-29
    Bozeman Daily Chronicle

    EXCERPTS:

    But it’s really hard to say what the properties are worth because there hasn’t been much activity in that market, Dave Johnson, partner at Hall and Hall, a Bozeman real estate brokerage specializing in ranch properties.

    “Sellers are hung up in not wanting to take a hit in value,” he said. “And buyers are not wanting to pay. … There’s not much selling.”

    Meanwhile smaller ranch parcels with fewer amenities are being listed, on average, at prices that exceed their market value, the report’s author, Clark Wheeler said. As the rush to subdivide dies down, these properties are going for about half as much as they did in 2005.

    “In Bozeman, people aren’t ready to face reality,” Wheeler said. “People are trying to find the market.”

    Some folks will be able to hold on until values begin to climb again, but those pressed to sell will likely have to suck it up, Wheeler said.

    Wheeler’s report also looked at lots smaller than 1 acre. In the Bozeman area, the average listing price for a lot was $516,000 in 2008. But the average sale price was $260,000.

    And, of the 600 listed lots that size in the area, only 64 sold last year.

    Johnson predicts that the gap between list price and actual market value is closing.

    “We’re seeing a continuous drop in asking price,” he said.

    But because there is so little activity in the middle-range marketplace, it’s tough to get a grasp on what property values actually are, he said.

    “Really, all you can point to is what used to sell,” he said. “It doesn’t really tell us anything except buyers aren’t responding.”

  22. “Judge orders property seized from Blixseth, son”
    http://www.dailychronicle.com/articles/2009/02/26/news/10blixseth%20stuff.txt
    By Jessica Mayrer
    2008-2-25

    EXCERPTS:

    A District Court judge Wednesday gave American Bank in Bozeman the OK to begin seizing and liquidating property owned by Yellowstone Club owner Edra Blixseth and her son, Matthew R. Crocker.

    The phone at Gobuild, Crocker’s Bozeman-based development company, has been disconnected.

    Blixseth’s attorney, Joseph Eisenberg of Los Angeles, declined to comment on these developments Wednesday evening.

    Blixseth and Crocker cosigned on a $350,000 loan from American Bank in 2006, of which $156,000 is now delinquent, according to court papers. American Bank has asked the court for help in recouping the balance due.

    District Judge Mike Salvagni signed an order Wednesday giving the Gallatin and Madison county sheriffs the go ahead to begin seizing a laundry list of property, including 12 vehicles, computers, office fixtures and blinds, according to court records.

    The items will be taken from the Yellowstone Club near Big Sky, the Jacob’s Crossing office building on Main Street and Gobuild’s facility on Tawny Brown Lane.

    American Bank has also initiated foreclosure proceedings on the Story Mill property, originally slated to become a 1,200-unit “green” development north of downtown Bozeman, said another attorney representing American Bank, Bill Lamdin.

    Matthew Crocker filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Feb. 13, but his company Gobuild is not protected by the filing, Lamdin said Wednesday.

    This is the latest financial challenge in a long string for the family.

    Warrants for Crocker and Blixseth’s arrest were filed in Colorado this month after they failed to appear for a “debtor’s exam” to account for a $13 million loan taken out with Western Capital Partners, LLC.

  23. “Yellowstone Club owner declares bankruptcy”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/03/28/news/000edra.txt
    By Jessica Mayrer
    2008-3-28

    EXCERPTS:

    Yellowstone Club owner Edra Blixseth filed for personal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday to stop a creditor from seizing and liquidating her personal property, according to court records.

    ERIK PETERSEN/CHRONICLE The Warren Miller Lodge stands at the base of the Yellowstone Club in 2008. Edra Blixseth, owner of the club, filed for personal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to stop a creditor from liquidating her personal property, according to court records. Blixseth, who had been silent amid reports of her mounting financial difficulties in recent months, issued a written statement Friday explaining her decision.

    “There has been an orchestrated campaign to discredit my good name, my business interests, and the years of hard work I have invested in … the club, other businesses and my many philanthropic endeavors,” she said. “There are individuals and groups, including my ex-husband and his attorneys, led by Mike Flynn, who I believe have sought to undermine my good work, make false and hurtful allegations against me and my family, and done everything in their power to blame me for the mistakes and questionable activities that occurred under their watch.

    In response, Flynn, Tim Blixseth’s attorney, attributed Edra Blixseth’s financial challenges and those of the Yellowstone Club to her mismanagement.

    “These matters arise out of Ms. Blixseth’s decision in her divorce proceedings to wrest control of the club through her lawyers,” Flynn said in a written statement Friday.

    Edra Blixseth’s bankruptcy filing in federal court comes as banks across the West lined up to seize her assets.

    When Blixseth did not show up for a February debtor’s exam in Colorado to account for the loan, a U.S. District Court judge declared her in contempt and issued a warrant for her arrest.

    And the Yellowstone Club declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November. The 13,500-acre exclusive ski resort with a championship golf course is going on the auction block, with club member Sam Byrne and Tim Blixseth having stated their intent to bid for the property.

  24. “Blame game”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/04/30/news/000yc.txt
    By Jessica Mayrer
    2008-4-29

    EXCERPTS:

    MISSOULA – Former Yellowstone Club owner Tim Blixseth should be held personally accountable for siphoning off a big chunk of a $375 million loan that crippled the swanky resort and sent it spiraling into bankruptcy, attorneys argued at a bankruptcy hearing here Wednesday.

    Loan proceeds were used to finance Yellowstone Club World projects, including a castle in France, a Mexican resort and a property in Scotland. Portions of the funds were also used to buy an island in Turks and Caicos and a ranch in Wyoming. Another $12 million went toward a boat; $3.5 million to private airplanes; and a big chunk went to pay off Blixseth debt, according to court records.

  25. “Judge says lender’s [and owner’s] greed sank posh club”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/05/13/news/10decision.txt
    By Jessica Mayrer
    2008-5-12

    EXCERPTS:

    Nearly $209 million of the Credit Suisse loan went directly into Blixseth private interests. And virtually all loan proceeds went outside of the club and into properties in Mexico and Scotland as part of a fledgling project dubbed Yellowstone Club World that never took off.

    The judge did not specifically address Tim Blixseth’s liability — that will come in a later decision. But in his opinion, the judge referenced plaintiff claims that the former club owner breached his fiduciary duty while transferring funds fraudulently.

    The creditors committee alleges Blixseth tweaked terms to avoid sharing loan proceeds with other club stakeholders. And Kirscher appears to buy into that contention, referring to the former club owner’s actions as a “guise,” while saying, “He did not want to share the loan proceeds.”

    Kirscher also points out that though the club consistently had challenges paying its bills, Blixseth never moved to draw from his personal accounts to bail out the club.

    “When funds were tight, rather than make a demand … Blixseth would instead seek to obtain operating funds from various members of the Yellowstone Club,” Kirscher writes.

    Credit Suisse will now be allowed to submit a claim to the club for the $232 million still owed by the club.

  26. “As prices fall, housing market picks up”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/05/24/news/000home.txt
    By Amanda Ricker
    2008-5-23

    EXCERPTS:

    [C]ondos, townhouses and raw land, in particular, aren’t selling as well these days. Just 13 lots have sold around Bozeman this year, compared to 127 in 2008. None have sold in the Manhattan and Three Forks areas. “Lots are real slow,” Dueringer said. “Lots that maybe cost $120,000 before are down to $75,000. … We have a glut of lots on the market right now.”

    BOZEMAN: The median price dropped 9 percent, from $308,850 to $280,000, between the end of 2008 and mid-May; and 101 homes have sold so far this year, compared to 502 in 2008.

    BELGRADE: The median price dropped 16 percent, from 226,000 in 2008 to $189,000; and 42 homes have sold this year, compared to 157 in 2008.

    THREE FORKS: The median price dropped 16 percent, from $197,700 to $166,000. Five homes have sold this year, compared to 22 in 2008.

    MANHATTAN: The median price has fallen 7 percent, from $221,000 in 2008 to $205,000. Three homes have sold this year, compared to 27 in 2008.

    GALLATIN CANYON/BIG SKY/WEST YELLOWSTONE: The median price has fallen 26 percent, from $1.1 million to $815,000. Eight homes have sold this year, compared to 39 in 2008.

    LIVINGSTON: The median price dropped 19 percent, from $197,000 to $159,750; and 18 homes have sold so far this year, compared to 98 in 2008.

    MADISON COUNTY: The median price dropped 17 percent, from $263,500 to $220,000. Four homes have sold this year, compared to 44 in 2008.

  27. A little math, based on data from the US Census Bureau, which gives us the population data, and the Bozeman Job Service Workforce Center, which gives us the number of active job seekers in its database:

    Population Estimate: 35,061
    Under 18 Years Old: 5,610
    Age 65 And Older: 2,805

    Subtracting the kids from the seniors, we get a working age population of 26,646.

    Now we have the context for the number of job seekers listed, which is 8,749. Of course, that number does not include every single member of the Bozeman population looking for a job, just those who have registered at the Bozeman Job Service Workforce Center. So the “real” number is actually higher.

    When we divide the number of active job seekers by the working age population, we get the percentage of the working age population that is actively seeking a job. That works out to 32%, which is a lot different than the 6%-ish unemployment rates touted by the government and media.

    How to explain the disparity. Two things:

    A) How they calculate the unemployment rate. Hint: it’s a way designed to minimize the number. The reasons they do that is the topic of another article.

    B) Many of these job seekers already have one (or more) McJobs, and they are seeking another. Not a pretty picture.

    There you have it. Heckuva job!

    Sources:
    Population figures:
    US Census Bureau
    http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/30/3008950.html

    Number of active job seekers:
    “Trickle-down economics”
    Bozeman Daily Chronicle
    June 17, 2009
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/06/18/news/000job.txt

  28. Check out today’s news:

    “City requires Facebook passwords from job applicants”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/06/19/news/10socialnetworking.txt
    2009-6-18

    EXCERPTS:

    As part of routine background checks, the city asks job applicants to provide their usernames and passwords for their social-networking sites [and email accounts]. And it has been doing it for years, city officials said.

    “Please list any and all, current personal or business Web sites, Web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.,” states a city waiver form applicants are asked to sign. Three lines are provided for applicants to list log-in information for each site.

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana says they may be crossing the line.

    “I would guess that they’re on some shaky legal ground with this and we would certainly welcome (the opportunity) to look at something specific from somebody who’s impacted,” Executive Director Scott Crichton said Thursday.

    He said Bozeman’s policy is unprecedented as far as he knows. ACLU’s legal counsel in Washington, D.C., had never heard of another city asking for log-in information for social networking sites as part of a job application.

  29. There’s been a lot of news in the past five months that I’ve not had time to post. Here is something interesting, however:

    “County awarded $7M housing grant”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/12/19/news/100grant.txt
    2009-12-19

    EXCERPTS:

    But commissioners still need to vote on whether to accept the money.

    “(This program) would allow a lot more of our service workers to live inside the community, and it’s a great opportunity to provide homeownership to a target population that has been difficult, if not impossible, to reach,” she said.

    But Grenier stressed that the new program is not a done deal. If the commission votes not to accept the money, it will go back in the state pool and be reallocated elsewhere.

    Commission Chairman Steve White has indicated that he may vote against the award because he is reluctant to accept federal money at a time when the federal deficit is ballooning.

    It’s the job of the free market, not the government, to provide affordable housing, White said.

  30. More catching up on some 2009 news:

    “CNN in Bozeman over stim spending on tennis courts”:
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2010/01/15/news/400cnn.txt

    and

    “Bozeman police officer resigns after Facebook page puts bad face on department”:
    http://bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/09/04/news/10officer.txt

    Police officer Anderson posted comments on Facebook bragging about “messing with people,” suggesting laws were needed to send “stupid” people to jail and describing his job as “making everyone angry, one traffic stop at a time.”

  31. “Big Sky: bargain basement”
    http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/article_fa206a64-2f01-11df-a995-001cc4c03286.html

    All along the paved switchbacks in the Madison Mountains, prices for homes and condos have been cut by 30 to 40 percent over the last year, said Martha Johnson, president of Rivers to Peaks Real Estate, who has been selling property in Big Sky for well over a decade.

    It’s an uncoordinated fire sale fueled by foreclosures and cash-strapped homeowners looking to unload property, Johnson said over a latte at a coffee shop last week.

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