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Even as the real estate market cools across the country, that is not the case in the mountain states, where, as Realty Times reporter Broderick Perkins put it, "bargains await with the lure of big sky, wide open spaces, high altitudes, and double-digit appreciation." In the first quarter of 2007, prices in Montana were up 11.7 percent over the same period in 2006. If you want to try your hand at ranching, this is your state!

Montana is alluring for people seeking vacation or retirement homes because it has so many of the leisure activities such homebuyers seek. According to the National Association of Realtors' "Investment and Vacation Homebuyers Survey," those activities include the availability of beach, lake, or water sports (57 percent); boating, (38 percent); hunting or fishing (32 percent); golf (21 percent); biking, hiking, or horseback riding (20 percent), and ski or winter recreation (17 percent). Some areas of western Montana to consider:

With a population of about 18,000, this is the largest city and commercial center of northwest Montana. It is thriving — the population grew by 21 percent during the 1990s. It is within a 30-minute drive to Big Mountain Ski Resort, Glacier National Park, and Flathead Lake, the largest natural fresh water lake west of the Mississippi. Check out the luxurious lakefront properties in nearby Whitefish and Bigfork.

One of the most liberal cities in Montana is Missoula, home to the University of Montana and the Montana Snowball ski resort. It has a diverse and influential music scene and hosts the International Wildlife Film Festival, the largest animal-themed film festival in the world. With a population of 85,000, Missoula is known as the "Garden City" because of its dense trees and lush green landscape.

Photo courtesy of Travel Montana

Photo courtesy of Travel Montana
This charming town of 4,644 residents is located in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley — a wide-open valley traversed by U.S. Highway 93 and the Bitterroot River. It's not just a popular tourist destination; it's also a great place to live (population is up more than 25 percent since the year 2000). As one local Realtor puts it, Hamilton has everything from "cabins to castles — riverfront, log, luxury homes, ranches, and mountain retreats."

Lying at the base of the Bridger Mountains in southwest Montana, this historic mountain city is at an elevation of 4,810 feet and has a population of 32,500. A recent study conducted by BizJournal ranked Bozeman number one among small towns across the country because of its business opportunities, growth, educational systems, economy, lack of traffic, and cost of living. Bozeman is home to Montana State University and is 20 minutes away from the Bridger Bowl ski area. Bozeman is ranked as one of the top 10 ski towns in America by Skiing Magazine.

Another town at a high elevation — 5,115 feet — Sheridan is a lovely community known as the "Heart of the Ruby Valley." It's surrounded by seven majestic mountain ranges. Population is 670.

Photo courtesy of Travel Montana

Photo courtesy of Travel Montana
Situated on the Madison River, Ennis claims it's in the heart of the world's best fly-fishing country and that it's just a bit off the beaten path to Yellowstone National Park. Population is about 1,000. This is also cattle country. Ennis is just 12 miles from Virginia City, founded in 1863, which is considered to be the most complete original Old West town of its kind in the USA.

Big Sky
The year-round population is 1,250. During the summer and winter, the population rises by about 300 to 400, accounting for people with vacation homes. Major attractions: (1) It is a popular ski resort; and (2) It is 48 miles from Yellowstone National Park. One of the largest industries in Big Sky is tourism, rivaled only by construction and real estate activity, which have significantly risen over the past few years.

Photo courtesy of Travel Montana

Photo courtesy of Travel Montana

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Print Date: 6/24/2022
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