Whether it’s dreaming of living like the Duttons or the draw to the outdoors, there are a lot of people who want to move to Montana these days. But not everyone knows what they are getting into. In this post, we break down the most common misconceptions people have about moving to Montana. This post was written in good fun - if you have questions about moving to Montana click here.
We hate to break it to you but life in Montana is not exactly like it is on Yellowstone. For starters, ranchers use trucks to get around, not helicopters. And most locals don’t wear cowboy hats unless they are actually a cowboy. There are plenty of working ranches throughout Montana, but you would be hard-pressed to find one with as much drama as the Dutton family ranch. Photo credit southernliving.com
A lot of people moving to Montana want it all. Mountain views, river frontage, easy access, close to town, and the ability to see wildlife every day. No joke, we have had that exact request. While there are properties like that in Montana that come on the market once in a while, the reality is they are few and far between, not to mention expensive! For most of the people that live here, just having access to the mountains, rivers, and lakes is enough! If you are interested in seeing what type of real estate is available in Montana, click here.
There are a lot of small towns in Montana but there are several sizeable cities as well. Billings is the largest with a population of over 110,000 people. Missoula, Great Falls, and Bozeman are next each with a population of over 50,000. These are by no means large cities but they are big by Montana standards! In these cities, you will find shopping, dining, and entertainment options. If a small town is what you prefer, just know that the services you may be used to now won't be right out your back door. Depending on where you live you may have to drive for a few hours for a doctor's visit, a restaurant that isn't a bar, or a grocery store that isn't in a gas station.
When you picture Montana do you picture mountains? Montana’s mountain ranges definitely get most of the attention. In western and southwestern Montana the mountain ranges are abundant and impressive. However, eastern Montana is a whole different story! This part of the state is relatively flat with grassy plains. North central Montana is rolling wheat fields without a mountain in sight. As the fourth largest state in the nation, you get a wide variety of geography from one end to the other. You might find a real estate "deal" in Montana, but make sure you know what the landscape is like before you pull the trigger!
Now this one isn’t all wrong. Winters in Montana can be incredibly tough but as we mentioned above, Montana is a big state which also brings diversity in the weather. Bozeman can get a few feet of snow while the town of Livingston 25 miles away might be completely dry. On the west side of the Continental Divide spring may show up in April, and on the other side you really can't count on it until May or June. So if the weather is a big factor for you, talk to your real estate agent so you know what to expect in the area you are thinking about moving to.
With 2.5 cows for every person in Montana, we certainly have our fair share of cows, but that doesn’t mean that’s all you’ll see around here. The rural communities are where you will find the higher cattle-to-person ratio, but in the larger cities not so much. Keep in mind that most of these cities used to be cow towns back in the day so if you do stumble across someone moving cattle on a back road somewhere, be patient. As for the cowboys, there sure are a lot more cowboy hats around Montana these days (thanks Duttons). But if the hat looks like it just came off the shelf, it's pretty easy to tell if you are looking at a real cowboy or not.
It's no surprise that one of the main reasons people move to Montana is for quality of life. It is true that Montana is a paradise for those looking for adventure, space, connected communities, and access to the great outdoors. But there are many things that make living in Montana tough. Good-paying jobs are hard to come by, real estate is surprisingly expensive, public transportation is limited, winters are long, and it's getting “crowded”. While we couldn't imagine anywhere else to live, it's important to know that life in Montana isn’t all sunshine and horses.
Montana has long been a red state, but there is an urban-rural divide that creates more diversity than you might expect. Like many other states, Montana’s rural communities are more conservative while the cities lean more liberal. As for guns, Montana is home to some of the best hunting in the country so this goes hand in hand. Most Montana natives learn the responsibility of gun safety from an early age, but it's certainly not for everyone.
Wages in Montana have long been below the national average, but up until a few years ago so was the cost of living. Now, the cost of living in Montana is more expensive than half of the other states in the country and many people are shocked by the cost of real estate here. Like many other cities in the mountain west, Bozeman experienced an explosion of growth between 2020 and 2022. As a result of the growth, housing supply became a big issue and prices skyrocketed. And as people became priced out of the cities, they started moving to surrounding areas, causing the prices in the smaller towns to go up significantly as well.
Thanks to Montana’s boom in popularity, it’s getting a little crowded here. Crowded by Montana standards at least. The mountains, rivers, and lakes are getting so much attention that we are seeing a negative impact. You can still find solitude in Montana, but you will have to get off the beaten path. If you are new to the area and are venturing into the outdoors, please consider these friendly suggestions.
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