Navigating Big Sky Country: A Guide to Finding the Best Land for Sale in Montana

More people than ever before are choosing to move to Montana. Whether new residents are drawn to this state’s breathtaking landscapes, outdoor activities, or agricultural opportunities, it’s clear Montana is now one of the fastest-growing states in the nation.

Tips For Finding The Best Land For Sale In Montana

Land for Sale in Montana

If you’re dreaming of a countryside retreat or a strategic real estate investment, you may have considered joining this trend and looking for the right slice of Montana acreage. Although the Treasure State has many available land tracts, new land investors need to know the basics of finding and financing parcels. With a basic understanding of how to buy land in Montana, you’ll be in a better position to figure out whether this is the right opportunity for your goals.

Define Your Montana Property and Acreage Goals

Prospective land investors need a clear image of their ideal Montana property before looking through available land parcels online. Typically, people get interested in Montana’s land to take advantage of its vast space, scenic wonders, and many outdoor recreational activities, but there are also plenty of opportunities for property development, agriculture, or travel real estate.

Are you most interested in building a ranch for agriculture and livestock, a cabin for personal use, or developing property for commercial or residential purposes? Taking the time to consider these basic goals helps you identify the key features you need in your Montana land and tailor your search for land lots.

Consider Your Budget Constraints

While Montana’s wide space and soaring mountains make people feel a sense of “boundlessness,” please remember there are limits to how much you can comfortably invest in property. While considering your goals for a Montana land investment, take the time to calculate the maximum capital available for this investment. It’s also essential to detail the expected return you expect from a Montana land investment to analyze the risk-to-reward profile. These financial details help further narrow your search in the Montana land selection process to find the most attractive options as soon as possible.

Research Montana’s Land Zones

Montana has a rich and diverse topography, including rugged peaks and alpine lakes, rolling hills and river bends, and its namesake “Big Sky” vistas. While investors will likely find scenic spots wherever they search for land opportunities, not every Montana county is ideal for specific goals. It helps to understand the key features in different Montana zones to figure out the perfect areas to research:

  • Western Montana: The highlight of Montana’s western region is the famous Rocky Mountain range, which provides visitors with plenty of pristine alpine scenery for climbing, hiking, and skiing. Missoula and Kalispell are two of the region’s major cities, and they provide easy access to attractions like Glacier National Park. In addition to hiking up the Rockies, Western Montana has plenty of hunting and fishing opportunities thanks to its numerous lakes, rivers, and forests.
  • Central Montana: Unlike the state’s western region, Central Montana is dominated by prairies and rolling hills spread along the Missouri River. Due to this expansive space, the central area is particularly popular with people most interested in agriculture, livestock, or simply enjoying a quiet rural life.
  • Eastern Montana: Similar to Central Montana, the eastern zone also has plenty of wide-open spaces and prairies; however, it tends to have a drier climate than other areas of the state. The eastern zone is also home to Billings, which is Montana’s largest city and the state’s major commercial hub.
  • Southwestern Montana: Here, visitors find some of Montana’s most famous ski resorts along the Gallatin and Madison mountain ranges. This region also grants people easy access to the renowned Yellowstone National Park, home to towering waterfalls and the popular Old Faithful geyser. Those interested in activities like skiing, hiking, and fly fishing will find plenty of opportunities in this mountainous region.
  • Southeastern Montana: Composed primarily of prairies and badlands, Southeastern Montana is an expansive area of the state ideal for agriculture, hunting, or fishing. For those interested in Montana’s lineage, this area is also home to many notable historic sites like Miles City and Little Bighorn Battlefield.

Research Montana's Land Zones

To help get you started searching for land in Montana, here are a few counties with land offerings:

Look Into Montana’s Development, Zoning, and Building Permits

Even if investors found their “ideal” land opportunity, they must familiarize themselves with the latest local development regulations, zoning laws, and building permits to ensure their plans are well within Montana’s current codes. It’s also imperative to hire a professional surveyor to get accurate readings on a prospective land parcel’s limits plus expert soil tests if investors are most interested in agriculture. At this stage, it’s also helpful to contact a professional Montana land broker for guidance on spotting attractive land opportunities and working through the legal requirements.

Inquire About Infrastructure

One of the attractions of visiting or living in Montana is it’s one of the least urbanized states in the USA. While this lack of development gives Montana unique value propositions, it also means land investors can’t assume their parcels have easy access to essential utilities.

If you’re planning on building properties in Montana, you have to double-check the current infrastructure and how costly it is to add clean water, electricity, and sewage systems to a particular area. Also, consider nearby road access and the distance from services such as a hospital from your Montana cabin. These considerations will help you better envision the possibilities for your Montana property and prepare you for additional expenses.

Look Into Montana Land Loans

When investors feel confident in a Montana land parcel, they typically work with a local financial institution to secure a loan. While land loans work similarly to mortgages, they tend to carry steeper requirements for the borrower — including higher interest rates, down payments above 20%, and faster repayment schedules. Also, since banks perceive land loans as riskier investments, investors often have to work with credit unions to secure these financial products.

Although land loans are the most popular way to finance Montana lots, there are other strategies to secure funding for land. For example, the Farm Credits system has already provided billions in financial assistance to those involved in Montana’s agriculture and livestock industries. Prospective land buyers in Montana should review their options before deciding which repayment schedule makes the most sense for their situation.

Montana Land And Real Estate Market Trends

Montana Land And Real Estate Market Trends

As of early 2024, Montana’s land and real estate market presents an interesting case study for potential buyers and investors. Following a boom in sales during 2021 and 2022, the market entered 2023 with one of its lowest inventories in recent years, especially for ranch properties. Despite this scarcity, demand has remained strong, particularly from high-net-worth individuals seeking ranches for recreational or investment purposes.

In terms of the housing market, Montana leans towards being a seller’s market, characterized by increasing home values and relatively quick sales. The state has seen solid job growth and a decrease in unemployment, contributing to a stable economic backdrop. Home prices in key areas like Great Falls, Helena, and Butte are expected to see modest increases throughout 2024. Furthermore, mortgage rates, after reaching a peak in late 2023, are anticipated to stabilize above 6%, which could invigorate buyer activity in the second half of the year.

Overall, the Montana land and real estate market appears resilient with no immediate signs of a downturn. The market dynamics, including a seller’s advantage in housing and a balancing act in ranch property prices, offer diverse opportunities for different types of investors and buyers looking towards the Big Sky Country in 2024.

Is Now The Time To Buy Land In Montana?

Montana has many attractive features for land buyers, especially if people are interested in outdoor recreation and travel. However, since this state is one of the least developed in the USA, it has unique challenges investors must consider before jumping into the land market. Take plenty of time researching the pros and cons of buying land in Montana to determine whether it’s the right move for your situation. After thoroughly reviewing this state’s possibilities and potential drawbacks, it should be easier to decide whether Montana land is the right decision.