2024 Market Update: Montana Land Values

Summary of the 2023 Montana land market, including data from the "For Land's Sake" presentation at the 2024 ASFMRA Annual Winter Real Estate Roundup on demand, land values and inventory.

2024 Market Update: Montana Land Values

Western Ranch Brokers once again attended the “For Land’s Sake” presentation as part of the Montana Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) Annual Winter Real Estate Roundup.  Presenters from Montana Land Source and Norman C. Wheeler and Associates, and AgWest Farm Credit reviewed data from the 2023 Montana land market and analyzed trends in inventory levels, transaction volume, and land values. 

2023 Montana Land Market Overview

  • Number of Sales Transactions: 368
  • Number of Acres Sold: 426,820
  • Total Sales Dollars: $952,910,502 

Inventory and Sales Transactions

The data presented emphasized the all-time low post-pandemic inventory levels and subsequent lower number of sales transactions. Although demand has remained fairly steady over the last several years, many potential sellers hesitate to put their property on the market if a suitable replacement property is not available. The number of sales transactions decreased slightly from 2022 to 2023, but the total sales dollar volume ($838M) increased—and is markedly above the total sales dollar volume from 2019 ($559M), just before the market-changing pandemic. The minor changes in dollar sales volumes between 2022 and 2023 suggest that land values are stabilizing, below the record high prices of 2021, but above pre-pandemic numbers.

Graph of Montana Land Values from 2018 to 2023
Source: Montana Land Source

Land Values

The average median sales price per acre has declined from the highs of 2021 but the 2023 price per median acre represents two distinct markets within Montana—recreational land with premium amenities and everything else. According to Andrew Rahn of Montana Land Source, sales dollars for premier properties with Class A amenities have held steady or increased in price per acre value, while properties with fewer amenities have decreased. Recreational property investors are also less affected by market influences such as high-interest rates, often paying in cash while the market for lower-quality properties may be impacted more heavily by external factors. Montana land values vary widely based on the type of property (agricultural, recreational), its amenities, location, and the general region 

There are notably more top-tier properties in the recreation-focused market of Western Montana than in the north central and eastern portions of the state. However, with the limited inventory available in Western Montana, buyers have expanded their search for quality properties to other regions. Eastern Montana, mostly represented by agricultural-focused properties, saw an increase in both sales volume and sales dollar volume in 2023. These increases may be a result of recreational buyers expanding out of Western Montana or related to residual increases from the pandemic as price increases move their way eastward.

Source: Norman C. Wheeler & Associates


Statistics show an increase in total acreage sold in 2023 but were largely influenced by the sale of two large ranches. The total acreage sold in 2023 would actually be more than 20% below the previous year without these notable sales. Norman C. Wheeler and Associates reported that the IX Ranch in the north-central region accounted for 50% of the total acreage sold there, and the Francis Unit of the Climbing Arrow Ranch represented 40% of transaction acreage in Western Montana.

Open land on IX Ranch in Montana
IX Ranch, Source: Huntinglocator.com

The Year Ahead

Montana land inventory shortages will likely continue into the year ahead. With such a large number of transactions over the last several years, including the sale of several very large ranches, it is unlikely that a significant amount of listings will enter the market in 2024. Montana Land Source reports that the average daily listings in Montana between 2018 and 2021 were around 550, whereas between 2022 and 2023 the average number of properties was closer to 300—likely a new norm.

For properties that do enter the market, pricing will depend greatly on location and amenities. Lower-tier properties will face potential price decreases as buyers become more cautious and have a lessened sense of urgency. 2023 was full of price adjustments, and there will likely be more of the same in the year ahead as seller expectations are challenged by buyer willingness.

Highly desirable top-tier properties should see prices remain strong as demand stays high and inventory stays low. Quality properties seem to be resistant to interest rates and other market influences. The right property will sell regardless of market conditions, and likely at a top price point thanks to seemingly unwavering demand.

2024 is also an election year, which might make both buyers and sellers hesitate as they wait to see what changes lie ahead. Broker Caleb Campbell commented:

“Historically it’s normal to see the market level out during an election year, as many people and families put a pause on any major decision-making while they wait to see what transpires in the election cycle. Real estate is just one of the many industries impacted by the so-called election pause period. However, demand for quality ranch land is still very strong in the Rocky Mountain West and is seemingly resilient to the current political climate.”

Low inventory, strong demand, and amenity-driven pricing are all in the forecast for the year ahead—closely resembling 2023 market conditions for the foreseeable future. If you’re considering buying or selling a ranch in this complex market, Western Ranch Brokers has the experience and knowledge to help you successfully navigate any transaction. Contact Western Ranch Brokers for more information and to learn how we can go to work for you. 


Read the full presentations from For Land’s Sake below:



Western Ranch Brokers contact information

The information contained herein was obtained from sources deemed to be reliable. Western Ranch Brokers makes no warranties or guarantees as to the completeness or accuracy thereof.
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