Montana is firmly in the crosshairs of migrating tech workers with high paying jobs and disposable income to spend looking for a new home. COVID-19, civil unrest, high costs of living and low quality of life has them leaving big cities around the country. Their newfound ability to work remotely has them looking for new digs, open spaces and a better quality of life.
Forbes.com recently labeled Butte as a “Zoom town,” a new piece of jargon that refers to towns that have the potential to boom due workers discovering the ability to telecommute. Low population density and easy access to outdoor recreation are among the qualities contributing to Butte’s appeal. In the past year, median home prices in Butte have gone up over 10% according to Zillow.com.
Across the state Montana home prices have risen according to Zillow and the trend is expected to continue into mid-2021 according to the website’s projections. Much of the growth has been in areas around the National Parks with West Yellowstone, Cooke City, Kalispell and Whitefish all seeing median price increases over 7% since July of 2019.
The growth has not been limited to the traditional tourist destinations. Miles City on the Eastern plains has seen home prices increase by 7.9% since Summer of 2019 and even Libby isolated in the Northwest corner of the state has experienced increases of 5.1% in the same time frame.
While the movement of people to Montana has been brought to the national spotlight by the likes of Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel and Kelly Clarkson choosing the treasure state as their preferred place to ride out the COVID-19 outbreak, it could be just the beginning of a new Montana land rush.
Neighboring Idaho saw 194% more people move into the state than they saw leave in 2019 according to a study by Atlas Van Lines. Idaho has had the fastest growing population in the country since 2017. Studies regarding movement during the pandemic suggest that we could see these numbers continue for the foreseeable future. If the trend of workers moving from urban to more rural areas continues to grow, Montana’s population growth and home prices could both continue to increase for years to come.
The population of Montana has been growing at some of the highest rates in the country since the 2010 census. While population growth in a typical county in the United States has been about 1%, Gallatin County saw 25% growth, or over 22,000 new people move to the county between 2010 and July of 2018. Madison, Flathead and Richland counties all had growth rates of 12% or higher over the same time frame.
The population boom could result in Montana regaining a second spot in the United States House of Representatives depending on the result of the 2020 census, but it is not popular with some long-time Montana residents who fear the newcomers will change the Montana way of life.
The median price of a home in Bozeman in September of 2020 was $440,200 according to Zillow. That means that in order to meet the 36% dept to income ratio with no other debt a buyer has to make $65,000 or more to purchase a home. Add in a car payment, student loans or credit card debt and that number gets higher.
The median household income in Montana is $55,328 a year according to datasource.com. The site projects median income is growing by 3.4% and the median home price is growing by 7.4%. Those differing growth rates are cause for concern among the Montana locals who are concerned they will be shut out of their own housing boom.
All indicators short of complete economic collapse point towards continued growth and increasing property values in Montana. There are signs that the biggest boom could be yet to come as more and more people look to leave the cities and spread across the wide open spaces of the Western United States.