Real Estate Market Update for Northwestern Montana, by Viola Moss

We have, just in the past six months, transitioned from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market in northwestern Montana. Much of this is due to the impact of stricter bank mortgage lending requirements. Many [previously commonplace ] investors and types of loans are now nowhere to be seen. I heard just this week that the lenders are requiring the appraisers to go back only two months (instead of six months) for comparatives. This is nearly impossible with the sales spiraling downward. This is quite a reversal from just two years ago, when we didn’t have comps because the prices were going up so fast due to demand and lack of inventory!

Also contributing to the “Buyer’s Market” transition is that many buyers have to sell their home from whence they are coming as their market has long become stagnant.
Those who can afford it and have been “shopping” for a retreat the past two years have been way too picky in their expectations for their money and privacy. Many have been shopping for several years and now realize the pickings are few, especially for properties without restrictive covenants to raise animals and have a little farmstead. We have a lot more inventory but only about 5% is covenant free for such use.

The other thing is that those who want waterfront or surface water will pay more as it is primo and getting more scarce, especially without restrictive covenants. Maybe one would want to address having a well with a hand pump and consider that the water is more easily protected from contaminants (but I will leave this recommendation to Mr. Rawles). Many good properties at dropping prices are passed up for this one reason.

Those who are demanding total privacy and can’t afford a lot of land to allow such need to understand that only about 8% of our land is privately owned. (The good news to this is that the wildlife is abundant and one could easily bug out to the woods.) Therefore, parcels are usually grouped together for private purchase and use. So if you can get a property with a forest boundary or near bigger parcels for privacy that is as realistic as one will get. There may be a very few rare finds of “totally surrounded by forest” properties; but, then they are not accessible year round and may have to deal with US Forest Service road agreements. Would this cause one to be blocked in or out in the near future? I think looking for a good sustainable neighborhood could be of benefit if lieu of that perfect private piece, especially for those who can’t afford a lot of acreage.

Also, larger parcels, even if you could afford them are getting fewer and fewer because they have been subdivided for more affordable land for buyers. These usually come with the new restrictive covenants and have caused the off balance of covenanted lands versus non-covenant.

Don’t be fooled by the pictures on the MLS. There is nothing like actually looking at a piece and seeing how the “lay of the land” is. One could get 47 acres with creeks at the end of the road but it may not be always accessible or where you would want to build is on the corner of the property right next to the abutting owners summer cabin! The terrain and lay out can make all the difference in what you think you might want or not want.

Another warning: If a property is priced really well, then there is usually a reason. Yes, sometimes a seller actually prices something to sell. But be sure to know what the well depths are and especially, in this country, find out how much the normal the spring water run-off/melt will be and affect the property. Your 20 acres may only have 5 acres of useable land year round.

Many have not made the moves and changes in location and lifestyle needed for what’s coming and are finding it is now “almost too late.” They wanted their cake and ice cream too. One foot in both sides of reality and disillusionment. I envision that many will bail out of their current places and take what monetary resources they can squeeze out of to get to refuge areas, like here [in northwestern Montana]. They will abandon what they have in the cities and coastal areas when they realize it is too late; but, maybe think they can get out by a hair’s breadth. Hopefully, they can settle for 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best before disaster strikes!

Another problem we see are buyers and their significant others not agreeing that something has to be done! One will know and want to move now or acquire a bug out retreat; yet, the spouse or children or parents don’t! I implore those who can foresee what is coming, to go ahead and do what they know is needed. Otherwise, your loved ones will have nowhere to run to. They will be grateful. The worst that could happen, is that everything turns around and you live a more crime free, pollution free, healthier lifestyle and environment for you and your family. You can always go back to Egypt — wherever that may be for you. Yes, you may sense a bit of personal prejudice towards this part of the country. I left my comfortable “Egypt” in 2004. <grin>

For others, they have actually lost almost everything due to job loss, natural disasters, et cetera. They had a boat come by to rescue them and said, “God will send me help.” They finally realized they don’t need a helicopter to get them out and they need to move now! They know they need to move in faith regardless of the obstacles now: though with much less than they had anticipated but thank goodness they are here or on their way.

Again, this is a prime location for people to nestled into and hunker down for the days to come. Even if you have to have a neighbor or community, you will find that the majority of these mountain people are prepared much more so than other locations in the United States. Viola Moss. E-mail: Web site:

JWR Adds: Be sure to take a look at the growing list of properties and agents available at SurvivalBlog’s spin-off web site: