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Million-Dollar Homes Are Becoming More Common in Small Towns Across the Country

It used to be that small towns were more affordable than big cities, but that’s not really the case anymore.

During the pandemic, Montana became a refuge for Americans who craved more space and a lower cost of living. It’s no surprise, then, that the state is booming with buyers, and as a result, real estate is getting more expensive. In Bozeman, the so-called “Queen City of the Rockies,” the median sales price of a single-family home soared to $1.16 million in January. For context, that’s a roughly 40 percent increase compared to a year prior, according to a new report from the Bozeman Real Estate Group.

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“The steady increase in buyers, combined with the lowest number of homes for sale that we had ever seen, drove the price of a home in Bozeman up faster than you can say powder day,” the firm wrote in the report. From the start of 2021, the city saw a 60 percent spike in demand for homes, and at the same time, sales rose by 50 percent. According to Newsweek, the brokerage recorded a 300 percent increase in queries from affluent, out-of-town shoppers who wanted to relocate.

“Bozeman is rural, there’s no doubt about that. But does a rural location matter when there are Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts along with direct flights to 21 major metropolitan areas? Throw in a global pandemic, and all of a sudden working remotely from a place like Bozeman seems like a pretty good idea,” the real estate group told the magazine.

montana real estate boom
In Bozeman, Montana, the median sales price of single-family homes in February was $1.16 million.

Bozeman isn’t the only small mountain town facing sky-high housing costs. In Colorado, which also experienced a COVID-fueled surge, workers and residents of Steamboat Springs are being pushed out of the remote community by wealthy transplants, NBC reported. In fact, the city has been unable to fill employee positions due to a lack of affordable housing. “Houses used to be for employees and hotels for guests. Now houses are for guests and hotels are for employee housing,” Loryn Duke, director of communications for the Steamboat ski resort, told NBC. “We have a lot of great staff who are early in their careers or have young families, but they just aren’t able to put down those roots.”

Similarly, many small towns across the country, particularly those with a healthy tourism sector, now have median home values that rival those in bustling metros. In Jackson, Wyoming, the average home price clocks in at $670,100—an average 8.57 times higher than the area’s median household income.

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