Montana Ranch and Recreational Property Real Estate Assessment 2020

By Rod Freeman, Realtor and Member of Montana Ranch Properties, a division of BHHS Montana Properties.  Montana Ranch Properties specializes in recreational, agriculture, land, and sporting properties across the state of Montana.  BHHS Montana Properties is the largest volume Real Estate firm in Montana with 17 offices across Western Montana.  My personal web site is

The major source for the data that will be presented was Montana Land Source, a service and web site,, headed by Andy Rahn who, in addition to his other talents, is an Accredited Rural Appraiser.  The site tracks all available Montana land listings and sales for all properties 200 acres and up.  Currently the site is reporting 435 properties for sale consisting of 976,253 acres with a total listing value of $1,791,956,964. 

Andy just completed compiling a report of sales by number of properties for all of 2019 and 2020 through October.  This data revealed a significant surge in unit sales during September and October, with 25 sales during September 2019 compared to 35 during September 2020 and 24 sales during October 2019 compared to 40 during October 2020.   Sales for 2020 have routinely exceeded 2019 sales despite the pandemic travel restrictions and concerns. 

Another part of this evaluation looked at time on market and in this area, Andy was surprised to observe that there had been an increase in time on market for the sales for 2020 as compared to 2019.  A further examination of this data revealed that fewer qualified properties had entered the market during 2020 while a significant portion of the sales were for properties with extended time on the market. 

There are several items driving this segment of the market as well as the often much smaller recreational, sporting, and equestrian properties, for which there has been a significant increase in sales during 2020. 

The first potential market driver is the pandemic itself which has created a desire for buyers to seek more remote and/or private properties as a place of seclusion and anticipated safety. 

The second potential market driver has been the publicity surrounding Paramount’s Yellowstone series.  The primary ranch featured in the series is just south of Darby Montana.  The first three seasons were filmed 30% in Montana and 70% in Utah, however the production company has pulled out of Utah and season four is being filmed in its entirety in Ravalli and Missoula county, and primarily in Ravalli.  The movie industry has been responsible for buyers discovering Montana on three occasions, first with a River Runs Through It, second with the Horse Whisperer and now with Yellowstone.

A third potential market driver has always been here but the first two discussed have contributed to a re-discovery of these, Montana has unmatched natural beauty and plenty of wide-open spaces. 

We expect the market for land sales to continue to increase during 2021, particularly for recreational, equestrian, and sporting properties.  As Montana continues to have more cows than people, the cattle market is a market driver for the larger ranches and farms.  Beef production is projected to slightly increase in 2020, with a more significant increase projected for 2021.  In fact, the largest projected increase for the next five years is for 2021.  This cattle market statistic may contribute to a continued loss of the family owned smaller cattle operations with those properties being sold to developers in the areas surrounding the Montana’s population centers and the consolidation of ranches into larger holdings.  As a personal comment, it is sad to see the loss of so many smaller outfits but as these owners continue to age and their sons and daughters continue to seek non-agricultural employment, the disposal of these ranches becomes more and more likely.  It is a sad fact of life today that ranchers and farmers are dirt rich and income poor.

As difficult and dangerous as it is to attempt to predict the future, we are positive about the potential for the current real estate market, particularly for the areas that Montana Ranch Properties focuses on, to continue to expand.  Montana Ranch Property ranch and recreational experts, ( are ready to assist you regarding either finding your Montana dream property or in our premium market knowledge and tools to assist you in successfully marketing your property.  Looking forward to seeing you on down the trail.