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What’s Happening In Ranch Sales in Montana?

by Liz Nitz

What’s Happening In Ranch Sales in Montana?

Montana ranch sales more than doubled from 2019 to 2020. We saw a flood of wealthy buyers in search of wide open spaces to relax and play. There is a mystique to Montana thanks to movies and books and I don’t think people have been disappointed as new buyers keep coming to our beautiful state.

It’s important to keep in mind that ranch sales farm sales should be considered a whole classification. You can’t really dig deep into price per square foot because there is a huge range of criteria that affect pricing. Think water rights, structure on land, location, out buildings, etc.

Our MLS covers Butte to just outside Billings and over to the Wyoming border. Sprinkled in are a few random listings that show up because agents choose to list here. Here are the basic stats:

  • 2018: There were 28 listings sold in the farm and ranch sales category. Average days on market was 267 and there was a total sales volume of $54,074,125.
  • 2019: There were 25 listings sold in the farm and ranch category. Average days on market was 315 and there was a total sales volume of $53, 300, 418.
  • 2020: There were 63 listings sold in the farm and ranch category. Average number of days on market was 197 and there was a whopping total of $119,500,926.


What Trends Are Ranches Seeing?

Ranches have been transitioning from agricultural to investment and recreation.

  • Land value used to be the income you could make from farming/ranching. It’s now based largely on recreational pursuits, aesthetics, development and investment potential. The pandemic may have accelerated that trend. You can see from the 2020 sales numbers that listings and sales more than doubled. People wanted a place to escape the uncertainty of big cities. Montana’s wide open spaces and plethora of outdoor activities fit the bill for a lot of buyers.


Marrying economic viability with ecological sustainability is becoming front of mind.

  • Renewable energy: As more cities convert to carbon neutral over the next 20 years, ways to provide renewable energy is being heavily considered. If you have a piece of land that meets all the logistical requirements of operating a bigger solar and wind farm, it could be an income source for the future.
  • Holistic land management: This idea of operating a ranch with a wider ecosystem in mind has been gaining more traction recently. That might have to do with a younger generation taking over their family ranches. It’s not just about all the requirements of raising cattle. Holistic land management aims to create a profitable operation that is sustainable for the soil, water and native species on the land.
  • Conservation easements: These easements are used to protect land, water and endangered native species from future development. Landowners get paid or receive a tax break for the easement on their land.



Savory Institute is a global movement of regenerative farmers and land managers.

Polyface Farms and Joel Salatin in Virginia are famous for their regenerative farming practices.

Hall and Hall and Fay Ranches are two of Montana’s biggest ranch brokers.

Montana Land RelianceThe Nature Conservancy, The World Wildlife Fund are all conservation organizations that work with Montana land owners.

Montana has seen a lot of shifts happening. As more out-of-town buyers look into Bozeman, Missoula and Whitefish, many long-time residents are considering moves to smaller places like Lewistown and Dillon. If you have any questions about what’s happening in Bozeman and Montana real estate feel free to contact me at


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