8 Best Places to Live in Montana, According to Real Estate Experts
Looking to relocate? Consider Big Sky Country.
Montana's stunning landscapes — snowcapped mountains, crystal-clear lakes and rivers, ancient canyons, idyllic meadows, and wide-open spaces — have made it a top vacation destination for generations of Americans. But in recent years, it has also become one of the fastest-growing states by population, ranking sixth in the country and outpacing national averages, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
So, what is it like living in Montana? For starters, the Treasure State has the fourth lowest unemployment rate in the country and some of the lowest property taxes, providing economic incentives and stability to its residents. As one of the least populated states — just over one million — but one of the largest by size, there's room (and lots of it) for everyone in Big Sky Country. And, of course, Montana's natural beauty and resources are awe-inspiring, allowing for a seemingly endless array of outdoor activities and recreation.
Below, we rounded up eight of the best places to live in Montana, according to local real estate experts.
With world-class skiing facilities, miles of hiking, quick access to Yellowstone National Park, and a beautiful natural setting, Bozeman is not only one of the best places to relocate in Montana, but also one of the best cities to live in the country. The city is an outdoor lover's paradise, but its residents have a few more things to rave about. With two universities and a highly rated public school system, good quality education is a top draw. That leads to a high percentage of young people and professionals living here, resulting in vibrant arts, culture, dining, and entertainment. The only downside? It's getting more expensive to own a home in Bozeman. Currently, the median home value sits a little below $800,000.
"Nevertheless, inventory is limited, and there's still significant competition for desirable properties, particularly in the luxury market," said Anne Kreder of Big Sky Sotheby's International Realty. However, Rocket Homes estimates that, in January 2023, 64 percent of homes were sold below asking price.
Located in southwest Montana, Dillon is a historic town of about 4,000 offering excellent outdoor activities, nightlife, access to the University of Montana Western, and a great standard of life and employment opportunities (unemployment here is below three percent). The town also just welcomed a new Barrett Hospital & Healthcare facility, bringing in more jobs and improving medical care in the area.
"Another significant draw to Dillon would be the affordability of housing compared to other larger cities such as Bozeman," Michelle Van Dyke, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Montana Properties, told Travel + Leisure, adding that median home prices in Dillon are currently at $349,450. "No wonder we're seeing an influx of buyers."
Van Dyke added, "The most popular neighborhoods in Dillon are the historic districts central to downtown with classic Victorian homes. Over the past several years, we have seen a greater demand for higher-end homes that are being built in new subdivisions close to the hospital and rural areas that enjoy some 'elbow room.'"
"Whitefish has it all," Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices agent Melinda Morton enthusiastically pointed out. This small town may be one of the country's best winter resorts and a great year-round vacation destination, but it's also a wonderful place to live and raise a family. Expect good public schools, easy access to quality health care (North Valley Hospital is in Whitefish), a low unemployment rate, and plenty of recreational options such as great restaurants, boutiques, and a performing arts theater — not to mention hiking, mountain biking, and zip lining, which draw nature enthusiasts and adrenaline seekers.
"You'll find families from Texas, Florida, and Arizona that want to be in a beautiful place that's not too hot or humid during the summer months. People say Whitefish is the new Sun Valley," Morton added.
"There are so many historic neighborhoods with beautiful older homes within walking distance to downtown. There are lakefront properties, golf course properties, Whitefish Mountain Resort homes, new condos, and new town homes — yet not enough housing for the demand."
Low unemployment (2.1 percent in December 2022) and a lively downtown area with microbreweries, restaurants, a live theater, and a symphony are some of the factors that make Montana's capital a great place to live. It's also home to one of the largest city parks in the continental U.S. — Mount Helena City Park — with miles of trails that snake past wildflower fields, meadows, and breathtaking landscapes. The city is also about the same distance from Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, which make for perfect weekend escapes.
"Helena has been and continues to be an excellent place to own real estate," said Deb Whitcomb, managing broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. "Our market is not subject to the volatility that many others in Montana experience."
If you're looking to relocate to the "Queen City of the Rockies," Whitcomb suggests the Upper East and Upper West sides of Helena, along with the South-Central District, known as SoBro (South of Broadway), which, according to her, is perfect for those looking for a walkable neighborhood.
If you're considering a move to Four Corners, you're going to spend a lot of time on the water. Located on the Gallatin River adjacent to Bozeman, Four Corners, which is technically a census-designated place, has emerged as one of the hottest real estate markets in the state. The median list price for single-family homes here is actually higher than that of its more famous neighbor — $845,000, according to Realtor.com. And with so many people looking to move here, this small community is quickly attracting new businesses and town amenities. It's also home to Monforton Elementary School, a public school with an excellent rating and a major draw for families.
"The growth in Four Corners is incredible right now, and we will see a lot more in the years to come," Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices real estate agent Nicole Taranto told T+L. "Currently, Middle Creek Parklands has been a very popular and desirable neighborhood, and Black Bull Golf Community is booming with activity for housing, from one-bedroom condos to single-family homes well over 5,000 square feet."
This vibrant city in western Montana seems to have it all. Its downtown area is packed with restaurants, breweries, boutiques, and coffee shops, and its music and entertainment scene is impressive, with performances and live events happening year-round, including several festivals in the summer. Historical attractions, art galleries, and museums (including the Montana Museum of Art and Culture) transform the city into a creative hub, while epic mountain views are everywhere you look. But Missoula's claim to fame is its blue-ribbon river that runs through town and provides residents with an endless list of water activities.
"We are a college town and retain a very small feel with a tight sense of community even through our recent growth," Crystal Ault, a broker at Glacier Sotheby's International Realty, told T+L, adding that despite low inventory, the market has a lot of variety.
"Missoula has such a wide range of properties that it's easy to find something for a young single, a family, empty nesters, or even lots of retirees who make Missoula home as snowbirds. Our average home price hovers around $550,000, and our luxury market of over $1 million remains a big part of our market as well."
Nestled among stunning Rocky Mountains scenery, diverse wildlife, and endless blue skies, this small town has become a household name thanks to its world-class skiing facilities. With 5,850 skiable acres blanketed by 400 inches of snow on average every year, Big Sky is one of the biggest resorts in America that caters to both beginners and pros. The town is also known as the gateway to Yellowstone National Park, a year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts, with natural vistas unlike anywhere else.
The town's popularity with new residents (according to Census numbers, the median age here is 36) has also expanded its amenity list, which includes fantastic dining, shopping, entertainment, and good health care. This has also led to more jobs, with the accommodation and food industries being the biggest employers.
"Big Sky folks are a lucky bunch," said Will Brunner, a broker with Big Sky Sotheby's International Realty. "With more real estate development in the pipeline, there has never been a better time to put down roots under the Big Sky." He added that the current entry point into the town's real estate market is about $465,000 for a studio apartment.
As part of the Butte-Anaconda Historic District and home to thousands of historic properties, Butte is steeped in Montana's history and culture. Dubbed the "Richest Hill on Earth" for its abundant gold and silver resources, Butte has grown from a mining town to a melting pot of communities, creating eclectic dining and cultural scenes. Like the other cities on our list, Butte also offers its residents many outdoor activities, including mountain biking, fishing, golfing, and skiing. However, real estate in Butte is a lot more affordable. The median home value in February 2023 was $295,000, according to Realtor.com.
"For buyers looking to purchase a home in Butte, our prices are still lower than Bozeman, Missoula, and some other areas around us. Our median sales price is between $400,000 and $500,000 lower than the Gallatin Valley. This tells me there's room for growth, and it's still a great time to invest in our community," said Bonnie Hawke, managing broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.
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