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Searching for land in Western MT

 
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Howdy,

I figure it's about time to introduce myself/beg for help. My wife and I are doing the exit-the-rat-race thing. We've both gone full time remote, sold our home and possessions outside of Washington DC. We're currently traveling across the country with our dog and a truck looking for ~10 acres to establish an off-grid homestead somewhere in WA/OR/MT. We're currently booked for 2 weeks in Stevensville starting Jan 1, followed by a few weeks in Elk, WA.  We've spent time vacationing off grid in the region, but are not familiar with the specific area. We've found that experiential learning works best - hence nomading around until we find a good fit.

My wife will be working remotely full time, and I'll be part time while conducting the primary survey for land. Our only real criteria is that it's a super cool spot, and that we can creatively establish reliable internet for my wife's work.

From the online search, it seems like Western MT is going to give us the biggest bang for our buck while avoiding ID/WY (for other reasons). I've identified a few dozens properties that I am now doing deeper research into.

I would love any tips, hints, recommendations, cautions about looking for property in the region.

Be well - Evan
 
pollinator
Posts: 353
Location: Missoula, MT
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This will probably help your search: https://www.406mls.com/listings-search/

As well the MT cadastral: http://svc.mt.gov/msl/mtcadastral
 
gardener
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If there are well logs online, I would look up those around a property you consider, to get an idea of how deep a well would need to be dug and to add that to the price if the site doesn't already have water. If a site has or needs a private road to reach, you'll want to plan for snow plowing in the winter, either chipping in with a neighbor already doing it or buying the gear needed if it's just you. There's also the costs of meeting the minimum building codes for a given county, such as septic and driveway requirements. Plus if you want to build a home that's non-standard building code, you'll want to see what the rules for variances are in advance.

I found the latter couple items too much and sold my land in Washington, and will be building next spring in western Montana on Wheaton Labs instead. It costs less, I can go all-in on natural building there, and there are others with similar permaculture interests.
 
rocket scientist
Posts: 5350
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Evan;
I live in NW Montana.
I consider the prices to be crazy but I know that they are comparable.

Be very cautious if you are looking in the Troy / Libby area.
They had large asbestos mines in the area in the past and large numbers of homes and surrounding land is  contaminated.
Not to say they all are but be aware if you are looking in that area.
 
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Check out this site for property information in Montana, don't pay for OnXHunt.
http://svc.mt.gov/msl/mtcadastral/

Most of Montana has long cold winters. Inexpensive remote property over 5000' elevation is usually very sloped property with limited seasonal access. Internet is usually DSL outside of the cities, starlink could be a viable option in the future if you plan on looking into it. I grew up in Mineral county and lived in Bozeman and Helena, ultimately my wife and I purchased land next to Missoula. Feel free to message me if you have questions. I am jealous you were able to get out of the DMV, we live in Arlington and I am itching to get out of here.
 
Evan Hochberg
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Thank you all for these excellent and extremely practical tips. I will take folks up on the offers for follow up once I get rolling. We crossed into MT today after 7k miles of road tripping. The real work starts tomorrow!
 
Mark Brunnr
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Of course if you're bonkers about permaculture and natural building, Paul has the Deep Roots package ( link here) where you could rent 1 or more acres of the ~200 acres on the lab for building a house and garden, and have access to the remaining land as well. You'd want to be sure your standards are in line with Paul, if you haven't listened to any of his podcasts that would be somewhere to start. This year he recorded several where we talked about his personal building codes which differ from the typical code. Since I'm moving there in a few months I wanted to be sure what I should plan around details-wise as I build my place, and thought it would be good to have for others who were curious. His podcast list is at https://permies.com/f/88/permaculture-podcast and there are multiple podcasts about his standards.
 
Jesse Mulalley
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How is the search going? You are pretty brave trying to find land in January. Hopefully you find your dream spot.
 
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If you are going to need water for irrigation, be aware that CSKT has recently regained jurisdiction over non-tribal upstream water rights. This has meant very high cost (some find unsustainable) for ranchers and farmers in the Mission Valley. (Lake County, between Missoula and Kalispell.)

https://montanafreepress.org/2021/09/17/interior-secretary-signs-cskt-montana-water-compact/
 
Posts: 35
Location: Helmville, Montana
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I live off-grid in western Montana, at 6000', in one of the neighborhoods that will probably pop up for people looking for land. As someone else said, off-grid land at higher altitudes is unlikely to have flat spaces till you make them. A friend with a road grader flattened us a spot to build our house. We have flattened other spots with our backhoe. A backhoe or skid steer is really pretty essential equipment to building off-grid. If you cannot buy your own, make good friends with your neighbors who are so equipped! Barter is alive and well, so trading use of equipment for something else is very possible.

Off-grid and up high, there are plenty of springs, so wells are not very common. Our water is piped to our house from a spring about 200' uphill, gravity fed, clear and COLD!

DO NOT expect realtors to know the nitty gritty of winter access in such areas. TALK to your potential neighbors. For example, my neighborhood is technically seasonal access only, but, in the 10 years we have been here, the amount of plowing taking place, and the reliability with which it happens, have increased steadily. Instead of snowmobiling the 3 miles closest to home all winter, last year, as was the case for years, we snowmobiled about a mile for part of winter, not at all for the rest, for example. The rest was plowed by neighbors with equipment. (Our neighborhood roads are private, not County owned. We pay for maintenance via a grazing lease with a neighboring ranch)

In my area, Starlink has been available since June of 2021. My hubs is a telecommuting computer programmer, so internet service is necessary to our bread and butter. In the decade we have been here, we have used cell service, with a signal booster, HughesNet, ViaSat, and now, Starlink, which blows the doors off of the rest. We use our phones on wifi over Starlink, as well.
 
Heather Brenner
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Location: Helmville, Montana
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Cadastral has its uses, as does Google Earth. OnX is still worth the money, IME. Do NOT expect Google Maps to have road names correct, or to pinpoint addresses, in remote areas. Accuracy gets pretty sketchy in remote areas, unless you have actual coordinates
 
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