Montana Ranch Buying Guide

A step by step guide for buying a luxury
Montana ranch as your second home.

Second homes away from the city are becoming increasingly popular, allowing people to escape the “hustle & bustle” of city life, working in offices, and going from meeting to meeting.

Montana’s lush and varied landscapes provide endless activities for the family year-round. Montana is the number one hot spot for people looking for a home away from home. But to truly benefit from the privacy and relaxation of a second home, it’s essential to purchase in the right location. 

That’s what makes luxury ranches an ideal second home. Luxury ranches bring a combination of freedom, relaxation, privacy, and access to an abundance of the countryside while also having all of the amenities and luxury that you are used to. 

Investing in a second home is a significant thing, and if not done correctly, it can prove overly expensive and provide you with more of the stress you’re trying to get away from. That’s why it’s essential to follow this guide’s points when buying a vacation home in Montana. At the very end, there is a comprehensive checklist that will help you find the perfect place for you.

Location, Location, Location

When thinking about where to buy your ranch, location is a significant factor. There are many aspects of the area to consider. 

One of the main benefits of having a luxury ranch as a vacation home is privacy and freedom. Ranches come in all shapes and sizes as well as being different distances away from the big city.

Think about how far away you want to be from others, as well as how far away you want to be from stores, hospitals, and restaurants – facilities are covered in more detail further down.

The next thing to think about when it comes to location is traveling to your ranch. You need to ensure you have year-round access to your property. How will snow removal be handled to get to your vacation home? Remember, a second home is all about having a place to relax – the last thing you want is stress, getting stuck, and trying to find help. 

And that brings us to the next point. What methods of transport are available to get you from home to the vacation home? Ideally, you want to be able to drive from the airport in less than an hour to your vacation home.

Modern Amenities In A Rural Setting

So you’ve chosen a location you would like to buy a ranch in, ensuring it’s easy to get there and back any time of the year and without being too much trouble. What’s next to think about?

While you’re buying a second home in a rural area, there’s no need for you to give up any of the modern comforts we all take for granted. It may seem obvious, but it’s surprising the things we forget about and assume will be in place.

Power, for instance. You need to ensure the ranch you’re buying has access to enough power to supply everything you usually use when back home in the city. But that alone is not enough. Even in the most modern, well-supplied cities, there’s always a risk of a power cut. These can be caused by many things from increased demand, weather, and accidents.

This risk is just as apparent out in the open rural landscapes you’re looking to buy in – so you need to ensure appropriate backup power is available – and any downtime will be heavily reduced, minimized, and even mitigated.

Water is another big one too. Your ranch needs access to clean, drinkable water at all times – and in ample supplies for baths, hot tubs, and so on. Your ranch also needs to include water storage if a supply breaks down due to weather and so on. While power may not be a case of life and death, not having access to water for some time is. 

And speaking of water – there’s drainage to think about too. Your ranch needs to come complete with drainage to ensure your ranch is kept clean, smelling good, and is not a health hazard.

There also needs to be a way for materials, excess food, and so on to be taken away from your ranch. Waste disposal is a facility that we’ll cover in part 4, but you also need to be aware of how you can safely and environmentally friendly get rid of your waste. 

These are all essential amenities to have access to in your ranch at all times – but there’s also a few that are more home comforts that you’ll ideally want in place.

After a day adventuring and exploring the area around your ranch, taking part in recreation and sports (more on that in section 3), you may want to get back to your ranch, put up your feet, and put the TV on. So you want to ensure your ranch has access to Satellite TV. 

The same goes for the internet – which is another excellent way to watch TV, and essential for doing work. While you may be on vacation, and away from the city and your work, then chances are you may still need to check your emails. So ensuring your ranch has internet access is essential for this. 

Plus, the internet is an excellent way of connecting with the outside world as a phone connection is something that can not always be guaranteed. 

Fun For All of the Family

So you’ve picked a great location, and ensured the ranch is in an area complete with all of the essentials and modern comforts. 

Next, you want to ensure you have lots to do. Sure some days, you may feel like putting your feet up and reading a book. But other days, you’ll want to go exploring, trying new experiences, and bringing your family along with you for the ride!

You’ll need to make sure you and your family have plenty to do year-round – come rain or snow, AND for all ages.

There are many recreational activities in Montana – here are 32, which are some of the most popular:

Hopefully, that list gives you some inspiration to write your list of things you’d love to do. And don’t be afraid to give new things a go. Montana is the last best place and full of new opportunities.

When you have a list, you want to make sure the area you are considering buying a luxury ranch has access to many, if not all, of those listed. 

It’s also essential that you feel part of a community of other ranch owners – many of whom bought their ranch as a second home too. So check to see how many other ranches are near yours and just how friendly the community is.

You’ll find yourself making new friends with families just like yours, sharing many of the activities covered as well as at places like restaurants – just one of many other facilities you need to ensure are nearby, covered on the next page. 

There are many recreational activities in Montana – here are 32, which are some of the most popular:

  • Clay shooting
  • Hiking
  • Rock climbing
  • Sunset dining
  • Cliff jumping
  • Horse riding and roping lessons
  • Sporting clays
  • River tubing
  • Cooking wild game
  • Western dancing
  • Downhill skiing
  • Watching sunsets
  • Dog-sledding
  • Spa services
  • Sleigh riding
  • Yoga
  •  Wildlife spotting
  •   Fly fishing
  •   Mountain biking
  •   Snowboarding
  •   Archery
  •   Foraging
  •   Photography
  •   Snowmobiling
  •   Canyoning
  •   ATV excursions
  •   Rappelling
  •   Snowshoeing
  •   Cattle drives
  •   Going to a rodeo
  •   River rafting
  •   Spelunking

Much Needed Facilities

Now that you have plenty to do in and around your ranch, you need to think about other facilities; you need access to near to your rural second home.

The first major one is medical facilities – your ranch needs to be close as possible to a good hospital. A lot of ranch sites come with small medical facilities that can cover most needs – so ensure that is definitely in place and close to your ranch. You also want to ensure you know the route and how to get there any time of the year.

For more severe situations, you need to ensure your ranch has easy transport access to a hospital. Road access is a definite, and for more hard to reach places, a nearby medical helicopter need to be available. 

Security is another major factor – you need to know that your ranch and the area surrounding it is safe, and there is an on-site manager to keep an eye on your investment. 

While not essential, it’s a bonus to have an on-site concierge who can help you schedule your family adventures, facilitate deliveries, and make season-specific suggestions on things to do. And as well as an on-site manager and on-site concierge, a full-time on-site maintenance team is something strongly recommended; otherwise, you will be the one fixing things that break.

When you choose a ranch to buy, you’ll pick one that requires minimal if any maintenance (well cover that in part 5.). But, wear and tear over time is common-place, so having easy access to maintenance facilities is critical. Plus, a maintenance team can often help with any problems with vital services such as power, water, and drainage. 

Alongside this, there should be on-site facilities for waste disposal, including the recycling of as many household materials as possible. 

And while on the topic of vital services – there should be adequate facilities for the purchase of food, water, and other day-to-day supplies. Not to mention restaurants, cafes, and bars for social gatherings with your new friends and your family. You should have great choices for dining close to your ranch.

Getting The Most Value For Your Purchase

Your luxury ranch is a place of relaxation and enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank either. With careful consideration and due diligence, you can ensure you get the most for your money.

The first step to ensuring you get the most “bang for your buck” is the condition of the ranch. 

If you’re not able to inspect the ranch in person, you can hire a local professional surveyor (which you should do regardless of whether you can view in person) to analyze the property. They will be able to determine what maintenance or improvements need to be done.

Ideally, you want to buy a ranch that requires no immediate maintenance. But in most cases you’ll find ranches needing some upkeep – you always want to pick one that requires the least. 

But maintenance is just one of many costs associated with the ranch. You of-course have the costs of purchase. You want to have one, if not two, independent valuations carried out to ensure you’re aware of the true value of the ranch before you buy. Failing to do this means you could easily be spending thousands, if not tens of thousands more than you should.

You also have the other administrative and legal costs associated with the purchase. These can vary, but you must understand all costs from all parties involved in the process. 

You also have the yearly costs associated with buying. Again these can vary but will include things like the site management, facilities, and essential supplies such as power, water and, drainage. 

You need to get a full picture of what the ranch will cost you not just a purchase, but for life. Buying a vacation home is an exciting time, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. Buy from only professional ranch realtors with ethical and well reviewed-sites. 

Not only is your second home a place to get away, spend quality time with loved ones, and share many adventures – it can also be a sound investment! Depending on your busy work schedule, you may only be able to visit your ranch a few times a year for a few weeks at a time. That means for the majority of the year, your ranch is left empty.

Unless you rent it out! Providing the property you’re buying also has a rental program where you don’t have to do anything – you can earn money from your ranch when you’re not using it.

Now your vacation home in Montana can pay for itself while you are not using it. And by having the site manage it, any problems and risks usually associated with the letting of any property are massively reduced.

Other Things To Watch Out For

So far, we’ve covered the location, amenities, recreation and activities, facilities, and value for money. These are all of the main points you need to consider when buying a vacation home in Montana.

But there are a few other parts that don’t fit under one of the previous sections. They are equally as important, and things to watch out for. 

Firstly, there is ground-water purity. Water supply to ranches often comes from wells, and while the process includes purification, it’s very important to check the overall purity of the ground-water of the area you’re looking to buy in. Pure water ensures there is no risk to your health from drinking it.  

Next, you need to have access to the history of the land and ground, especially of that under the ranch you’re considering buying. It’s sad but an unfortunately common situation for properties and ranches in rural areas to be built on top of old dumping grounds that may or may not include hazardous waste. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid buying a ranch built on any waste site. 

Floods are a significant threat to any property and building that finds itself in its path. While a small number of floods are hard to predict, there are ways to be able to determine whether your chosen ranch is on land that has been or will be affected by floods in the future.

Visit the FEMA website to identify if your area is in a flood zone. Just enter the address, location, or longitude/latitude of your ranch and the surrounding area to see if there is any risk. Ideally, you’d not buy on land with even small risks of future flooding. You’re buying a second home and an investment for life.

Last but not least, you want to consider any zoning and land-use restrictions in the area or county you’re looking to buy in. These are easily accessible from the county’s land planning department’s website. Ideally, you want to buy in an area with minimum restrictions and risk of legal implications. 

Interested In Buying A Ranch In Montana?

We hope you’ve found this guide and checklist useful as you search for a luxury Montana ranch.

At Ranches At Belt Creek in Montana, there are several fantastic ranches available that make a perfect vacation home and meet all of the criteria we’ve listed. 

Our range of ranches includes land varying from 5 to 20+ acres, at different elevations, and with fantastic Montana views. There are also finished ranch estates with a profitable rental history.

For more information on the ranches we have available or to arrange a free call to discuss your needs, contact us below.

Mark Hawn, 

CEO, Ranches At Belt Creek

[email protected]