The Big-Sky state of Montana is home to some of the fastest growing areas in the country, yet the population is still widely dispersed. Cities such as Kalispell and Whitefish are experiencing record growth. Montana is an ideal place to live for nature lovers, skiers, hikers, and fishermen. The scenery, especially in the Western portion of the state, is amazing. Areas like the Gallatin Valley and Glacier National Park are among the most beautiful in the nation. Real estate prices are somewhat lower than in the rest of the country, and there are fewer foreclosures across the state as well.
Real Estate Prices in Montana
Real Estate prices in Montana reached their peak a few years ago, and have declined somewhat over the last couple of years, although this decline has leveled off in 2010. The median price for a property in Montana is somewhat below the national median of $170,500. It is important to note that prices vary in different parts of the state. A home in Whitefish will cost far more than the same home in Miles City. In Western parts of Montana, the average home price will therefore be more in line with those of other western states. The median price for existing homes in the Western U.S. is $209,300 as of October 2010. Median prices represent the average price of real estate, with half of the properties selling for more than the median amount and half of the properties selling for less.
Popular Real Estate Markets in Montana
The fastest growing city in Montana is Kalispell, in Northwestern Montana. Plum Creek Timber and the Kalispell Regional Medical Center are two of the city’s largest employers. Close to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, Kalispell, which means “flat land above the lake,” is popular with retirees and sportsmen. It is the county seat of Flathead County and is minutes away from excellent skiing in Whitefish, Montana. The breathtaking scenery, as well as the opportunity for skiing and fishing, make it an excellent choice for lovers of the outdoors. The largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, Flathead Lake, even comes with its own monster, a Nessie-like cryptid that allegedly dwells in the lake.
Bozeman, third on Forbes Magazine’s list of fastest growing towns, is located in the spectacular Gallatin Valley of southwestern Montana, close to the Wyoming border and Yellowstone National Park. Panoramic views, trout-filled streams, and some of the nation’s most beautiful scenery may explain the town’s popularity. According to city officials, most of the growth has been in the surrounding county, as opposed to in the town itself. Strict zoning laws help the town maintain its atmosphere. As in Kalispell, nearby recreation areas add to its attractiveness. Nearby ski resorts, such as Big Sky and Bridger Bowl, are magnets for outdoor sports lovers. The proximity to Yellowstone National Park is also a factor. Bozeman is also the home of Montana State University.
Located in the south-central region of Montana, Billings is the largest city in the state. Billings is the county seat of Yellowstone County and is not far from Yellowstone National Park. It is the main retail and business destination for Montana, as well as for surrounding areas such as northern Wyoming and the Western portions of North and South Dakota. As such, it is the home of the regional headquarters of many corporations. Also, as Montana has no sales tax, it is a shopping destination for residents of surrounding states. Little Bighorn National Battlefield Monument, Yellowstone National Park, and the Beartooth Mountains are all in close proximity to Billings.
Missoula is another high-growth area in western Montana. Home of the University of Montana and several medical centers, Missoula’s economy is largely based on medical jobs and education. It serves as a regional health center for much of the area. Perhaps because it is a college town, Missoula has an eclectic music scene. Like most of Montana, it is a sportsman’s dream, with fly-fishing, hiking, and skiing nearby.
One of the most affordable real estate markets in the country is Great Falls, Montana, according to a Coldwell-Banker survey. It is known for the waterfalls in the city where Lewis and Clarke made a stop. It was the largest city in Montana until it was surpassed by both Billings and Missoula. Now it is the third largest metropolitan center in Montana. Located near large rivers and not far from the mountains, it is surrounded by three hydroelectric plants. The winters are a little milder than in the rest of Montana because of the Chinook Winds, which keep the snow melted and the temperatures higher. When the winds are not blowing, however, the winters are as cold as in any other part of Montana. The summers are fairly hot.
Mortgage Rates in Montana
The average FHA and VA mortgage rates in Montana are around 4.75%, which is much the same rate as the rest of the United States. Conventional mortgage rates in Montana are also much the same as in other states. The rate of foreclosure is somewhat lower in Montana.
Mortgages and Programs
Mortgage programs in Montana are comparable to those in other states. Interest rates and available loans are basically the same as in other states, although there are some programs and laws that are specific to the state. Adjustable Rate Mortgages and Conventional loans, as well as Jumbo Loans and 15 year mortgages, are all available in Montana at rates similar to those of other areas. The Extra Credit loan for educators provides reduced interest rates and down payment assistance for Montana teachers. Adjustable Rate Mortgages are only available on certain loans, because state law guarantees a fixed rate for all loans over a particular amount. State law also restricts closing costs and fees to no more than 6% of the entire loan. Also according to Montana law, a lender is not permitted to loan more than a borrower can be reasonably expected to pay, which probably explains why the foreclosure rate in Montana is less than half that of other states. Reverse mortgages, second mortgages, and home equity loans are also available in the state.
Foreclosures in Montana
The foreclosure rate in Montana is lower than that of most other states. Also, Montana is a “no-recourse” state in most cases. This means that if a lender forecloses on a property, the borrower is not responsible for any amount left on the note once the property is sold. So if the foreclosed property sells for less money than the loan amount, the borrower may walk away from the amount remaining on the note. This is only true when the trustee forecloses, however. In the state of Montana, if the foreclosure is court-ordered, then the borrower will be responsible for the entire amount of the loan, even if the property sells for less than he or she paid for it. A judicial foreclosure is not treated the same way as a non-judicial foreclosure. It is also important to research tax laws, because in a no-recourse situation, the borrower may owe taxes on the amount forgiven.
It can take up to 150 days to process the necessary paperwork for a foreclosure in Montana, after which the Notice of Sale must be published for 50 days. Montana does not provide for a right of redemption, so once the property is sold, it is not likely that the original borrower will be permitted to bring the loan current and reacquire the property.
Over all, the real estate market in Montana is fairly affordable in comparison to other states. The foreclosure rate is also one of the lowest in the country. Those who love nature and the outdoors, as well as winter sports and cold weather, would do well to consider Montana.