Most Expensive Small Metros IN AMERICA: Bozeman, Montana is #6
We're in trouble. This isn't a "shake your head" broken record thing anymore. Montana towns are in deep, serious, fast-moving financial transformation. I've sugar-coated my personal concerns about Bozeman's change up until now. I can't do that anymore.
Let's start with something easy but quite scary. What got Bozeman the #6 spot on this list from the Inspection Support Network (who got their data from Realtor.com and the U.S. Census Bureau):
- The calculated median price per square foot for 2020 (the last available FULL YEAR of data) for Bozeman, MT was $271.22/square foot.
- The brand new fancy condos in downtown Bozeman are now selling (actually PENDING or SOLD) for $816/square foot. (The Merin building, anyone?)
Now, $800+ per square foot isn't Bozeman's median...but it's HAPPENING. We're here now. Someone is actually willing to pay that for a fancy new condo downtown. Certain people think that's a fair price, so that's what it is. (For reference, the median price/square foot in San Francisco is around $800.)
Bozeman has now officially entered some bizzaro-world that I don't understand. Up until now, I could somehow completely justify what was happening here as the result of a highly desired town finally getting expensive. Happens all the time, right?
But this isn't just about Bozeman getting REALLY expensive. I'm now seriously concerned that Bozeman is BROKEN, nothing economic makes much sense, and we're not going to recognize this place in 5 more years. (For real this time.)
I don't fault very wealthy people for being rich. But I do know that really rich people aren't going to be making your lattes. They are not the ones who are going to bag your groceries. They're probably not the people fixing your car or even your dentist.
If half a million is now the going rate for 1,000 square feet downtown, who are the people living in downtown in just a few short years? Nobody I know, probably. Feels like I used to know hundreds of people who lived downtown...including myself. (Mostly renters, of course, but renters in the heart of downtown.)
Where are the servers, bartenders and retail employees going to live? Sure, they can find "cheaper" rent out in Belgrade, Manhattan or Three Forks...but living there hardly makes it worth the pain of commuting, parking and working in Bozeman anymore. It used to be the norm, but as the Gallatin Valley has grown...us little people don't necessarily have to put up with Bozeman's crap anymore.
My gut tells me that if you didn't/couldn't buy a place to live around here in the last 5 years, you sure as hell aren't going to be able to do it in the next 5 years. I often see on social media, folks who are frustrated by the current Gallatin Valley situation say things like "just wait until the Bozeman bubble bursts". I don't think it will.
Retreat a bit? Perhaps. But I don't think that Bozeman is going to retrace it's cost of living in any meaningful way again. It's gorgeous here. "There's plenty more room" for development. Nobody seems to REALLY give a damn about our water situation or other infrastructure needs. The average homeowner is already taxed to a painful extent. There will be a breaking point with us average bears...and I assure you, this town is losing it's average bears.