Californians Flocking To Montana, Driving Up Home Prices

BOZEMAN, Mont. – The four-bedroom contemporary just west of town smelled of fresh paint, flooring, sealant and new beginnings. The Bridger Mountains beckoned against an azure sky off the back deck, and Robert Carder, Montana’s newest transplant, couldn’t contain himself.

“This is your new home, Conner!” he exclaimed to his 57-pound Australian cattle dog, whose paws were slipping on the wood floor in the living room. Carder spread his arms wide. “How much bigger is this than the picture?” he asked his wife, Valentina, confirming what the couple from Los Angeles already knew.

Their living room didn’t just seem bigger than the photos on Zillow that had led them to make a $559,000 offer after 24 hours in Montana, a place they had never been. The 2,300-square-foot house was twice the size of the two-bedroom condo they sold in Brentwood, Calif., before packing their cars and driving 16 hours northeast, released from the confines of the coronavirus pandemic and the jobs Robert had grown to hate and Valentina had lost.

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This was the 19th walk-through their broker, Charlotte Durham, had done for out-of-state clients since Montana’s virus lockdown ended in late April and its real estate market flipped into hyperdrive. Buyers fleeing New York, Los Angeles and other densely populated U.S. cities say they want to leave the coronavirus clusters and social justice unrest behind.

Even as the state’s fierce winter looms, the transplants are pushing house prices to record levels. Some are offering millions of dollars in cash for houses and land they have seen only on the Internet.

“They were like, ‘We’re hoping we love it!’ ” Durham recalled on a late-summer morning as the Carders nodded in agreement.

www.chron.com/news/article/Unhappy-urbanites-find-homes-on-the-range-15661838.php#photo-20136651